Total Fears: Selected Letters to Dubenka

Total Fears: Selected Letters to Dubenka

Bohumil Hrabal

Language: English

Pages: 204


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In these letters written to April Gifford (Dubenka) between 1989 and 1991 but never sent, Bohumil Hrabal (1914-97) chronicles the momentous events of those years as seen, more often than not, from the windows of his favorite pubs. In his palavering, stream-of-conscious style that has marked him as one of the major writers and innovators of postwar European literature, Hrabal gives a humorous and at times moving account of life in Prague under Nazi occupation, Communism, and the brief euphoria following the revolution of 1989 when anything seemed possible, even pink tanks. Interspersed are fragmented memories of trips taken to Britain — as he attempted to track down every location mentioned in Eliot’s “The Waste Land” — and the United States, where he ends up in one of Dylan Thomas’s haunts comparing the waitresses to ones he knew in Prague. The result is a masterful blend of personal history and fee association rendered in a prose as powerful as it is poetic.

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ride on the bus, that’s my travelling confessional, I travel once into town and back again the same day, like trams and trains and airplanes, once there and once back again ... So I sit in the bus, chewing on a roll, then take another, sweeping the crumbs from my lap and thinking, thinking of the pub, where the drunkards give me their fragments of sentences, as if it was all they lived for, to save up these morsels specially to please me, or wound me ... they know very well I carry a little

and those colours, it was as if they’d been seen and painted by Henri Matisse, those pastel shades! Rhododendrons of every hue, each one fresher than the last, and every cottage, even the poorest, full of flowers and a sense of decorative living, the meanest one-room dwelling was a real artefact! And those hills, planted by nature or by human hands with saturated-yellow clumps of gorse, hlodáš in the Czech, as Mr Čulík informed me, which sounds like “gnawing bush,” and right enough, those yellow

and the rising hillside, where a vineyard ran and Grandma had a field ... When the time came, she took me with her, she hoed the tomatoes and beans, picked the gooseberries and currants, and again when it was time, she clambered about the trees picking the various damsons, plums, and apricots, while I sat staring ... What did I stare at? Nothing, I was simply there with Granny, always bathed in sunlight, even if it started to drizzle ... Dubenka, just like I remember those first three years of

we fancy from the basket and peg ourselves in, so as not to lose that animal warmth, or the warmth we brought from home, then we sit down at the table, there amidst the five ashtrays there’s a nappy or diaper pan, and in that pan on the nappies or diapers lies a baby. It smiles, just like that child the monks in Lhasa have in the temple, knowing the child is the measure of all things, and we are just such a child, sitting there in our tablecloths, fastened about with clothes pegs, and the child

thirteenth month, as I read in Bruno Schulz’s The Cinnamon Shops ... Enough, said Blondy, now you can hear and see for yourself, Mr Hrabal, we gave you plenty of warning, now you hear how you’ve been exploited, and not only you, but one of Dubček’s former ministers ... What can we do? I asked, and suddenly I felt really scared that this Mrs Coudenhove something-or-other ... had pulled a fast one on me ... Well, said Blondy, that’s up to you, you’ve been drawn into our game ... write a letter

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