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Reading Czech Literature (I)

The local bookstore enlightens me with some titles of Czech literature:

The War with the Newts by Karel Capek
A humorous satire, and frightening. Salamanders take over the world with a minimum of fuss. Consider that it was written in 1936, prescient.

The Questionnaire by Jiri Grusa
A former dissident, who is now president of International PEN. The book was circulated in an underground edition of 19 typewritten copies, and Grusa was jailed for initiating disorder. It’s a brilliant bureaucratic satire/comedy.

The Good Soldier by Jaroslav Hasek
Another one of bureaucratic comedy. The titular soldier always has a reason for his strange mishaps, such as joining the enemy by mistake. The incompetent soldier undermines the authority of the Austrian monarchy through his feigned stupidity.

Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal
The narrator is a man who has been compacting wastepaper in the same cellar with the same hydraulic press for 35 years, He has picked out classics of world literature from the garbage, amassing a library which towers over him as he sleeps, always threatening to crush him.

Closely Observed Trains by Bohumil Hrabal
A work of light comedy, matched to the terrible events and appalling consequences. It is set at a minor but strategically important Czech railway station.

The Little Town Where Time Stood Still by Bohumil Hrabal
What Hrabal has created is an informal history of the indomitable Czech spirit. And perhaps the human spirit.


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