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I Served the King of England

4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,251 Ratings  ·  294 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)
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Jan 16, 2015 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: czech, top-10-2014
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
Mar 05, 2013 Algernon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2013

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
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
Jul 07, 2011 Lena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Feb 11, 2012 Josh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 08, 2016 Ana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eu tinha apenas acabado de chegar ao Hotel Na Cidade Dourada de Praga quando o patrão me pegou pela orelha esquerda e, puxando-a disse: «A partir de agora és o groom aqui, e não te esqueças: tu não viste nada, não ouviste nada! Repete!». Respondi então que não tinha visto nada nem ouvido nada, no hotel. A seguir o patrão puxou-me pela orelha direita e disse: «Mas não te esqueças também que tens que ver tudo e ouvir tudo! Repete!» Então repeti, admirado que veria tudo e ouviria tudo. E assim com
May 23, 2016 Ava rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
دیتی یکی از اون شخصیت های به یاد موندنیه که تا مدت ها می تونه همراه آدم باقی بمونه و کتاب هم البته کتاب دوست داشتنی ای هستش.داستان خدمتکار قد کوتاه و ریز جثه ی جاه طلب که حتا یک دقیقه هم دست از رویا پردازی و خواستن نمی کشه و درنهایت هم از پس جمله های خنده دار و داستان های "باور نکردنی "و انبوه حماقت ها و منفعت طلبی های باز هم "باور نکردنی "تمام رویاهاش رو توو بیداری زندگی می کنه:
درست مثل صاحب کار های قبلیش با زن های زیبا معاشرت می کنه، درست مثل پولدارتریناشون با اسکناس هاش می تونه خونه اش رو چند
Dec 13, 2013 Kaloyana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
"But I didn't want to be seen by human eyes anymore, or praised for what I'd done—all of that had left me." (226)
I lived in Prague for almost seven years, from the age of nine to fourteen. I was too young at the time to have a sense of Czech literature, of course, but I'm trying to make up for it – retrospectively – by reading more Czech authors (aside from the more obvious choice of Kundera). This actually goes for the literatures of all the countries in which I've lived; sadly, I only started
Aug 19, 2014 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mike Nettleton
Jul 14, 2012 Mike Nettleton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 24, 2016 Nazzarena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
È difficile dare un'idea di cos'è questo libro.
Posso dirvi che parla di come l'ambizione ci spinga a comportamenti impensabili, salvo poi lasciarci a riflettere su cosa siamo davvero, a prescindere da cosa vogliamo essere.
Ma io non sono così profonda, e quindi vi dico che di questo libro ho amato la potenza delle immagini evocate, l'ironia, la bellezza nascosta in cose apparentemente brutte, gli aneddoti tanto incredibili quanto potenzialmente veri, un flusso di coscienza che è, invece, azione p
Oct 12, 2014 Andrea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-translation
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
Jan 05, 2012 Eugene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 06, 2013 Bjorn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: czech, czechoslovakia
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
Dec 01, 2012 Rogier rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 12, 2014 Stacia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, europe
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
Jul 21, 2014 Rachelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 10, 2012 Bookmaniac70 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 08, 2014 Sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mitteleuropa
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
Nov 12, 2013 Наталія rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 12, 2013 Albena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Една от най-добрите книги в последните няколко години. И изобщо.
Jan 10, 2016 Hymerka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: усім
Навесні мине сім років, відколи вперше вийшов друком цей переклад і я познайомилася з Грабалом, і була зачарована ним. І от я вирішила, що часу минуло достатньо, щоб перевірити перше враження.
Що тут скажеш, другого такого, як Грабал, нема і, мабуть, не буде.
Я завжди уявляю його собі таким, як ото на тій світлині на звороті — за гальбою пива в затишній кнайпі захоплено розповідає якісь побрехеньки. Саме така ця книжка, з усіма цими реченнями на п'ять сторінок, коли в одному абзаці йдеться про кор
Stacey Jones
Feb 22, 2016 Stacey Jones rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I Served the King of England is like no other novel I have ever read. It careens through the career of the narrator, Ditie, through the middle of the 20th century in Prague and the hinterlands of the Czech Republic, through multiple political systems and the ups and downs that go with them for the people on whose backs they rest. And yet its absurdism is delightful while it simultaneously diminishes what it challenges.

The style may take some getting used to My husband and I read this book aloud,
Jacqueline Wagenstein

Ролан Барт навярно би харесал този роман на Храбал – и би го дал като пример за текст (като обратното на творба), защото той като че ли отговаря на всичките му изисквания: играе, позволява игра, работи на собствени обороти и най-вече отказва да фиксира значения, а вместо това постоянно се изменя, отклонява, убягва на ясния, твърдия прочит.
„Обслужвал съм английския крал“ представлява наборът от истории – а не историята – на един сервитьор от началото на кариерата му като младеж
Sep 14, 2014 Anastasia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 0-2013
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
Adam Dalva
May 26, 2014 Adam Dalva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Feb 02, 2013 Хейко rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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...

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“He was a gentle and sensitive soul, and therefore had a short temper, which is why he went straight after everything with an ax...” 65 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
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