Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “I Served the King of England ” as Want to Read:
I Served the King of England
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

I Served the King of England

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  3,198 ratings  ·  232 reviews
Ditie, a waiter, loves money, because he is short and money makes him feel six feet tall. So he follows his star from adventure to adventure, until he becomes a millionaire. But it is no dream come true, because along the way he troubles his conscience and ends up seeking a different kind of wealth."
Hardcover, 243 pages
Published March 1st 1989 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (first published 1971)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about I Served the King of England, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about I Served the King of England

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Czechs say Bohumil Hrabal's work is untranslatable. When I read Too Loud a Solitude I indeed felt something wasn't coming through. But I chalked it up to a style of Eastern European literature: dark, allegorical, an unfiltered cigarette of protest to communist grime. Glad I read it but no rush to read any more Hrabal.

And then I stopped in a used bookstore, just this week. Monday. There was I Served the King of England. I jimmied it out and thumbed it open, expecting to read a sentence or two and
Man's body and spirit are indestructible...he is merely changed or metamorphized
- Bohumil Hrabal, I Served the King of England (1971).

Hrabal's satirically political, erotically imagined and poignant adventure story follows the rise and fall of a young busboy Ditie (Czech for 'child') who, despite his diminutive stature, possesses big dreams and the determination to become a millionaire to be the equal of everyone else: is influenced by his father's advice to have an aim in life because then he'd

I was actually trying to find another book by Hrabal : Closely Watched Trains , but the library only had this. I'm glad I picked it up, as it was a joy to read from start to finish, and much more serious and thought provoking than the comedy of the first pages let me believe. Probably, the book would not qualify as a 'hidden gem' with a 4+ rating from 4000 votes and an inclusion into one of those '1001 books to read before you die' lists, but I still think it is underappreciated and worthy of
This is a highly regarded mid-century novel by an acclaimed Czech writer that wasn't translated into English until late last century. It tells the story of Ditie, an impoverished youth who starts work selling hot dogs in a train station and works his way up through the service industry as life around him is torn asunder by the second World War.

I wasn't quite sure what to make of this novel at first, with its page-long sentences, dearth of female characters and absurdist, fairy-tale undertones. B
Great characters don't die: take Svejk for example. Last seen hunting mongrels to smuggle into the purebred boudoirs of gullible dowagers , he emerges, after a Van Winklian absence, in the novels and persona of Bohumil Hrabal, arguably central Europe's greatest pure novelist of the post WWII era (by "pure novelist" here I mean something like what sportswriters mean when they describe a basketball player as a "pure shooter" or "pure point guard": nobility, heredity, mystical powers). I Served the ...more
Кремена Михайлова
Книга, която едновременно разсмива и разплаква до сълзи!
Ако можеше да се снима лицето ми от началото до края… От спонтанно хилене, през леко помръкване, до горещи, „дълбоки“ сълзи.

Не е книга, в която четях всеки ред, за да не пропусна нещо от сюжета (в началото си мислех, че може да ми дотегне от чисто ресторантьорски истории и майтапи), а заради плодовитостта на езика (към края обаче се оказа, че именно развитието на героя е най-важното). Тук видях и „най-артистичните“ еротични сцени; „ряпа да
This is one of the rare cases where I saw the movie well before I read the book. In part, I think my reaction to the book is because of what I saw with movie. Tracing the rise and fall of a busboy during the mid-1900s, I Served the King of England is a brew of humor, strangeness and beauty. It is impossible, though the movie came very close; to capture the absolute beauty of the language, even as it appears in translated form.

It’s strange because it is the beauty of the language that possesses
Помитащ текст! Не знам дали тази книга се чете на един дъх, защото колкото повече напредва текстът, толкова повече ти спира дъхът и усещаш, че честичко преглъщаш буцата, която ти засяда в гърлото. Но се чете за един ден. Особено след първата глава. Писането на Храбъл ми напомни за Балзак - писал е сякаш без да спре, без да се откъсне, а точките и запетаите са сложени само от уважение към граматиката. А и за да си избършеш някоя и друга сълза. Цялата книга е един поток от думи, който се завихря к ...more
Mike Nettleton
I don't read much fiction these days, but when I do, I often go for or back to Hrabal. Even though Kundera is probably the best known Czech writer (and another favorite) Hrabal is considered the grandaddy. They cover many of the same themes — communism, relationships, sex — but their styles couldn't be more different. Hrabal reminds me of Hemingway via Bukowski — short, boozy and punchy. But he also mixes in a dream-like quality, where implausible things are made to seem commonplace.

This was my
Confesso che all'inizio ho auto la tentazione di abbandonare la lettura,poi sono andata avanti e in fin dei conti non me ne sono pentita.
Il protagonista è un cameriere, piccolo di statura, che vuole emergere per non sentirsi diverso. La storia va avanti tra gli avvenimenti del periodo della seconda guerra mondiale e dell'invasione nazista della Cecoslovacchia, la caduta dei tedeschi e l'avvento del comunismo. Il protagonista passa attraverso varie disavventure, si salva sempre e a me personalmen
reminded me of walser -- maybe a more worldy walser. as if instead of retreating to the madhouse, hrabal was sentenced to the purgatory of the diplomatic corps -- forced propriety despite the absurd or horrific swirls of history around him. but, like walser, he recognizes the poetic gesture... poetic or romantic despite or because of the old world sexism and classism rampant (and rampant still) just before the second world war, the ripened-to-rot but still shiny weimar-type decadence... without ...more
Went to the Globe bookstore in Prague to buy Jaroslav Hašek's The Good Soldier Švejk to get me through a 15-hour train ride, but their last copy was mysteriously missing.

The Globe girl recommended this masterpiece as an alternative. One of those lucky accidents in life! This book makes you realise that Milan Kundera turned into a boring old has-been after his glory days of The Unbearable Lightness of Being and The Joke. Once you start Hrabal's comic trip through pre-war, Nazi, and communist Prag
I loved it completely -- the picaresque, comic, yet sharp social & political observations delivered seriously by our height-challenged, not-completely-but-almost-hapless narrator. At times it's almost silly, at other times a strange look at horrific events, yet it is all told with a levity, a belief in the ultimate goodness & hope of life (that's how it came across to me), in spite of the good or bad that has gone before. It's like looking back at a life well-lived (& not well-lived, ...more
Много хубава книга! Прекрасна богата разговорна реч, която сладкодумно те превежда през поредица от невероятни истории- някои смешни, други тъжни, а трети- смразяващо гротескни. Един огромен къс от трагичната европейска история на 20-ти век преминава пред очите на обикновено момче-сервитьор.Способността му да приема живота такъв, какъвто е, му помага да оцелее при ужасяващи обрати на съдбата. Той не оценява, не съди; в същото време една вътрешна честност го кара да остане верен на себе си. Дали ...more
Книга не читалась запоєм. Це було розмірене читання на кілька вечорів з кава-паузами для того щоб ще раз уявити, візуалізувати, посмакувати атмосферу. Від початку це мандрівка долею однієї маленької людини. І все тут починається з малого: молодий вік головного героя, низький зріст, незайманість, копійчана робота, маленькі оборудки, бешкетлива хитрість. Цілі молодого Яна прості і наївно меркантильні. Дивно, але ця меркантильність навіть поетична, бо світ навколо вирує, а персонаж споглядає його ц ...more
Suffice to say that while it's not quite the bulls-eye that Too Loud A Solitude is, it still kept me absolutely riveted. Like with the other Hrabals I've read, it's a microperspective of something much larger, telling the story of life in Czechoslovakia from the 1930s to the communist era from the horizon of a small and rather clueless restaurant worker; he starts as a bus boy and works his way up to manager before everything comes crashing down, and yes, the double meaning of "serve" is very de ...more
This book I love, the trials and tribulations of a tiny waiter, Ditie. A keen and amoral observer of human foibles in a rapid flow of tale telling that is almost stream of consciousness. There are plenty of whores in this book, and they are always happy and smiling in this book. It works from Ditie's perspective though, as it is never anything less than deeply flawed. Foundationally, it is written by someone who understands what it means to be on your feet all day, which won me over from the beg ...more
Една от най-добрите книги в последните няколко години. И изобщо.
Questo libro è stato scritto sotto un sole cocente, tanto che gettava una luce abbagliante sugli stessi fogli della macchina da scrivere, motivo per cui Hrabal non poteva neanche avere una visione istantanea di quello che scriveva, e infatti scriveva di getto, interrompendosi quando il caldo era tale da far arricciare i fogli. E bisogna infatti prendere il libro come un libro sotto impulsi e, se ho capito bene, non è stato mai rivisto per dargli l'impronta di un occhio curatore, con quella "perf ...more
Statement 1: There are so many similarities here with Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel that the man must have absorbed the story in some form, reprocessed it and made it his own.
Statement 2: There is something about Czech writers. They have this quality as though the writer is talking to you across a table at a boozy café, leaning back in his creaky chair and casually pulling out a yarn so that by the time you leave, you are fully intoxicated and have completely absorbed his story. I like bo
I very much enjoyed the central european weirdness of this book. The book start with the diminutive hero at 14 starting his ambitious climb through the Czech hospitality industry, with notable encounters with prostitutes, maitre ds, the emperor of ethiopia and the nazis.

I seldom found it all that funny but it was fresh, bawdy and ultimately a good read.
Adam Dalva
Really strong stream-of-consciousness novel that plays fast and loose with time and stakes. The first half is especially strong - the action in various hotels is hilarious and well-observed, and Dite is that rare mixture of likeable and abhorrent. The political intersections (both World War II and the rise of Communism) are both interesting and obligatory, but I do think they occasionally slowed down the action and contributed to the general feeling of trailing off that pervaded. The ending, tho ...more
Хумор и тъга преплетени в страхотна ирония както на заобикалящия свят, така и в душата на главния герой, който опознава себе си и света чрез абсурдите на злободневието.
Vittorio Ducoli
Ma Kafka e Hašek sono un'altra cosa

La nota sull'autore che si trova alla fine di questa edizione economica del romanzo dice che Hrabal è Erede spirituale di altri due grandi praghesi, Kafka e Hašcek (sic!). Ora, con tutto il rispetto e l'ammirazione per questo irregolare, per la sua vita travagliata e per il suo essersi trovato a vivere in Cecoslovacchia durante la guerra prima e sotto il regime “comunista” poi, non credo proprio che il suo nome possa essere accostato a quello dei due grandi imm
Penso che la filosofia di Dite, il protagonista, si possa sintetizzare con questo paragrafo:

"E l’incredibile che diveniva realtà non mi aveva abbandonato, e io in quell’incredibile ci credevo, in quella sorprendente sorpresa, in quello stupore, era quella la mia buona stella che mi aveva accompagnato per tutta la vita, forse solo per dimostrare a se stessa che da qualche parte l’aspetta sempre qualcosa di sorprendente, e io, col bagliore di quella stella sempre davanti agli occhi, io ci credevo

Full review and additional links

From the back cover of the New Directions edition:

First published in 1971 as a typewritten edition, then finally printed in book form in 1989, I served the King of England is a comic novel telling the tale of Ditie, a hugely ambitious but simple waiter in a deluxe Prague hotel in the years before World War II. Ditie is called upon to serve not the King of England, but Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia. It is one of the great moments in his life. Eventually, he f
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sir Jack
A lot of the humor in the book comes from the narrator’s (Ditie, I guess) value system being completely out of whack with the world’s. This discord produces a kind of religious friction between the rich internal world of the narrator and how this is at odds with or contrary to or aloof from the actual things happening around him.

So Ditie is also a desperate social climber. He waits on people but desires their fancy ties and greatly desires to put on airs in public as they do. There’s a splendid
If I had to describe this to someone I would tell them it's a European Confederacy of Dunces. And if someone asked me what's A Confederacy of Dunces? I'd tell them to read that one first. And to possibly skip this one if they don't have the patience for long sentences and seemingly pointless farce.

I came across this book because lately I've been in the mood for reading about disgustingly wealthy people being scandalous drunks and doing dastardly things. Who isn't in the mood for that most of t
2.5 stars, as there's half a very good book here, and half a very bad one. To the book's detriment, the majority of the very bad book is all front-loaded. The first two (out of five) sections, which meander with no real purpose, could easily be excised entirely with little to no damage to the book. A reader who makes it all the way to the end wonders if Hrabal himself realized the weakness of the first two sections, as a passing comment by Ditie, the narrator, disparages how the book began.

« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: please advise on book synopsis edit 4 45 Feb 05, 2013 11:41AM  
  • Prague Tales (Central European Classics)
  • Smrt krásných srnců
  • Mister Johnson
  • Saturnin
  • According to Queeney
  • Three Novels: Hordubal, Meteor, An Ordinary Life
  • Brewster's Millions
  • The Cowards
  • No Bed for Bacon
  • Augustus Carp, Esq. By Himself Being The Autobiography Of A Really Good Man
  • Pictures from an Institution
  • The Polyglots
  • White Man Falling
  • Fireflies
  • The Wimbledon Poisoner
  • The Adventures of Gil Blas
  • The Good Soldier Švejk
  • Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf
Born in Brno-Židenice, Moravia, he lived briefly in Polná, but was raised in the Nymburk brewery as the manager's stepson.

Hrabal received a Law degree from Prague's Charles University, and lived in the city from the late 1940s on.

He worked as a manual laborer alongside Vladimír Boudník in the Kladno ironworks in the 1950s, an experience which inspired the "hyper-realist" texts he was writing at t
More about Bohumil Hrabal...
Too Loud a Solitude Closely Watched Trains Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age Postřižiny The Little Town Where Time Stood Still

Share This Book

“He was a gentle and sensitive soul, and therefore had a short temper, which is why he went straight after everything with an ax...” 54 likes
“...гърдите ми се изпълниха с такава радост, че неочаквано и за мен самия запях, подхванах несмело, защото цял живот не бях пял, цял живот не ми беше дошло отвътре ни веднъж да запея, през всичките тези десетилетия и през ум не ми беше минавало , че може и да запея… […] сякаш с песента, абе каква ти песен, по-скоро крясъци някакви, за които си въобразявах, че са песен, нищо повече от воя на кучето, та сякаш с това пеене изсипвах от себе си кутийки и чекмеджета, пълни с пропаднали полици, ненужни писма и пощенски картички, че от устата ми се отвяват нанякъде късчета от скъсани стари плакати, […] късчета от всичко, настанило се в човека като цигарен дим и катран в дробовете на пушач.” 6 likes
More quotes…