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Hrabal, Bohumil

(Czech, 1914–97)

Hrabal was born in Brno and educated at Charles University, Prague. He worked in various occupations before becoming a full-time writer in the 1970s. Begin with A Close Watch on the Trains (1965), whose main character overcomes his sexual despair through a chance encounter and is inspired to action as an anti-Nazi saboteur in wartime Czechoslovakia. Too Loud a Solitude (1976) takes place chiefly in a cellar, where a solitary worker apocalyptically surveys modern history as he destroys waste paper and banned books. I Served the King of England (1971) exemplifies the bizarrely imaginative vein that runs through Hrabal's writing. It recounts the career of a diminutive waiter whose ambition sets him adrift in a blackly comic world of depravity and power. Hrabal's collections of stories include The Death of Mr Baltisberger (1966).

Jaroslav Hašek, Josef Škvorecký, Günter Grass  DH

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