Originally published as The Death of Mr. Baltisberger,
the fourteen stories in Romance
showcase the breadth of Bohumil Hrabal’s considerable gifts: his humor of the grotesque, his often surprising warmth, and his hard-edged, fast-paced style. In the story "Romance," a plumber’s apprentice and a gypsy girl reach toward a tentative connection across the chasm that separates their worlds. Another unlikely love story, "World Cafeteria," features a romance between a young man whose girlfriend has just committed suicide and a bride whose husband lands in jail on their wedding night.
The tone turns to the absurd in "The Death of Mr. Baltisberger," where a crippled ex-motorcyclist and three people he meets at the track exchange wildly improbably reminiscences, while a fatal Grand Prix motorcycle race rages around them. Hrabal’s psychological insight into quotidian interactions saturates stories such as "A Dull Afternoon," where a mysterious, self-absorbed stranger disrupts the psychic calm of a neighborhood tavern and becomes the silent catalyst for an unwanted truth.
Throughout the collection, noted translator Michael Henry Heim captures the quirky speech patterns and idiosyncratic takes on life that have made Hrabal’s characters an indispensable part of world literature.