Gaps: A Novel
Bohumil Hrabal Northwestern University Press, 2011 Library of Congress PG5039.18.R2P7613 2011 | Dewey Decimal 891.8635
Gaps begins with Hrabal receiving the long anticipated advance copy of his first short story collection, Perlicka na dne (Pearl of the Deep). Hrabal's career as a successful writer starts here, and the novel details his rise on the domestic front, his relationship with influential Czech artists and writers, as well as the international recognition he gains from novels such as Closely Watched Trains.
Gaps is a more overtly political novel than either In-House Weddings or Vita Nuova. The 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and the subsequent repression of artistic freedom figure prominently. Hrabal is placed on the "liquidated writers" list, and copies of his novel Poupata (Buds) are disposed of at the paper salvage where he once worked. Hrabal's decision to tell his autobiography in his wife Eliska's voice highlights their very close relationship and lovingly details her deep influence on his work. Every movement, sound, fragrance, and color is detailed, creating a collage of Bohumil and Eliska's life together, an unforgettable picture that reveals the author's innermost attitudes to life, love, and the pursuit of his own art.
Bohumil Hrabal Northwestern University Press, 2007 Library of Congress PG5039.18.R2S8513 2007 | Dewey Decimal 891.8635
Inspired by “Mrs. Tolstoy and Mrs. Dostoevsky, whose biographies about their husbands have now been published in Prague,” Bohumil Hrabal decided to produce his own autobiographical work, ostensibly fiction, from his wife’s point of view. He would write, he said, “not a putdown about myself, but a little bit of how it all was, that marriage of ours, with myself as a jewel and adornment of our life together.”
The task, taken up by such a rogue comic talent, could be nothing other than strangely delightful; and in In-House Weddings, the first of the trilogy that Hrabal produced, we meet the author through the eyes of his wife Eliska. She narrates his life from his upbringing in Nymburk through his work as a dispatcher in a train station and then in a scrap paper plant, his first publication, his trouble with the authorities, and his association with notable artists and authors such as Jiri Kolar, Vladimir Boudnik, and Arnost Lustig. Hrabal’s bohemian life was itself a source of great interest to the Czech public; transmuted here, it is even more compelling, a wry portrait of artistic life in postwar Eastern Europe and a telling reflection on how such a life might be recast in the light of literary brilliance.