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Closely Watched Trains

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  2,826 ratings  ·  138 reviews
Hrabal's postwar classic about a young man's coming of age in German-occupied Czechoslovakia is among his most beloved and accessible works. Closely Watched Trains is the subtle and poetic portrait of Miloš Hrma, a timid young railroad apprentice who insulates himself with fantasy against a reality filled with cruelty and grief. Day after day as he watches trains fly by, h...more
Paperback, 85 pages
Published March 9th 1995 by Northwestern University Press (first published 1965)
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The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan KunderaClosely Watched Trains by Bohumil HrabalWar with the Newts by Karel ČapekThe Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav HašekThe Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
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4.5 stars: Closely Observed Trains or Closely Watched Trains (1965)

The coming-of-age story of Milos Hrma
- a young, naïve railwayman - unfolds in a small lethargic train station, set in North Bohemia, Prague during the last two weeks of WWII, 1945. Milos narrates the tale which covers a timespan of 48 hours, comprising a series of flashbacks where it is revealed how his family name had come to be besmirched by three generations of Hrma men; including the mysterious origins of the gashes on his w...more
M. Sarki
I liked it. Didn't think I would. Reminded me a bit of Robert Walser because of the narrator's childlike wonder of it all, except in this version, unlike the wandering and unlucky Walser, this hero gets laid. And in more ways than one.
Treni strettamente somiglianti

Siccome mi son resa conto che spesso e volentieri scrivo recensioni troppo lunghe, per questa volta ho deciso di appoggiarmi a scorci letterari e visivi che non sono miei.

“Provavo un'irritazione simile a quella di chi dal finestrino di un treno che corre a tutta velocità, cerca di leggere il nome delle stazioni. La stazione si avvicina e tu pensi: stavolta devo stare attento a leggere il cartello, ma non ce la fai. La velocità è troppa, La scritta si intravede, ma è...more
Actually, 3.5 stars...

Set in the final year of the Second World War, Ostře sledované vlaky weaves together the rather exaggerated personal story of a young apprentice for the Czech national train company (embarrassed by premature ejaculation, he tries to commit suicide; his grandfather tries to stop the invading German army solely with his mental powers of suggestion - his family has to go to Prague to recover the skull from the tread of a tank; he beds a beautiful complete stranger (a German,...more
Jeff Jackson
Thank you to Goodreads for deleting my previous review. Did I slander Bohumil Hrabal by saying this short novel wasn't as exceptional as I SERVED THE KIND OF ENGLAND or TOO LOUD A SOLITUDE, but still worth your time? Or by mentioning the odd but largely successful mix of historical horror, ribald comedy, and subverted coming-of-age tropes? Or by pointing out that the novel seems intentionally disorienting for the first couple of chapters but eventually feels as precise as a stationmaster's pocke...more
Raúl Ricardo
No tengo la costumbre de escribir reseñas, pero a ver qué sale.
Conocí la película antes que al libro y eso condicionó un poco mi lectura. De paso adornaré la reseña con imágenes de la película.

El protagonista es Miloš Hrma (pronúnciese Miloshi Jarma), un aprendiz de despachador de trenes que vuelve a trabajar después de tres meses de descanso por enfermedad (view spoiler). Miloš viene de una familia de hombres que trabajaron poco y nada para vivir y tambi...more
Camille Stein
Y de pronto vi lo que seguramente había estado viendo todo el tiempo el factor Hubicka, que yo estaba perdido, que lo único que podía esperar era que aquel tren saltase por los aires, que eso tenía que bastarme en la situación en la que estaba, porque no podía esperarme otra cosa que la muerte, que si no moría del tiro me encontrarían los alemanes y me colgarían o me fusilarían, como era su costumbre, y entonces me di cuenta de que estaba destinado a una muerte distinta de la que había intentado...more
Chris Coffman
An interesting, short, novel about a provincial railroad station in Czechoslovakia in 1945, which just happens to be a unique perspective from which to witness events as the Soviet Army rolls up the Eastern Front and the collapsing Nazi war machine limps West.

Characteristically witty and austere at the same time, CLOSELY WATCHED TRAINS is also interesting precisely because it is not perfect, and so it is easier for a reader to discern how Hrabal constructs his novels than it is, for example, by...more
Chris Shaffer
Hrabal is a master of juxtaposing humorous anecdotes with some seriously tragic stuff. He also captures the reality of Czech civilians who, in spite of a war going on around them and being closely monitored by the German military, still find time to laugh, share stories, and, in one instance, discuss the romantic affairs of the train dispatcher. So, yeah, read this, laugh a little, cry a little, and just enjoy the read.
Beautifully written short book, set in czechoslovakia at the close of the second world war. Milos a young man works on the railway, watching the trains pass filled with soldiers, animals and ammunition.
There's a diverting scandal and interesting characters, most of them family members. Milos himself has only recently come back to work after being off work for 3 months. Do like the idea of him and his girl painting the fence and falling in love.
Milos does seem a little innocent but there's some...more
Closely Watched Trains is a vivid, often hilarious, devastating kick in the gut. Although written (and banned) in Soviet-era Czechoslovakia, the story hasn't lost much in translation or the passage of time. War tragedy and humorous youthful sexual burlesque rarely go out of style; taken together, if written well (as Hrabal does), the tragedy and humor amplify one other. Narrator Milos is a naive young apprentice train station agent near Prague during the German occupation. Having failed to pleas...more
Russell Bittner
Milan Kundera, whose prose(and consequently whose thinking) I much admire, describes, on the back cover of the edition I recently found in a dusty old bookstore here in Manhattan Bohumil Hrabal’s Closely Observed Trains as “(o)ne of the most authentic incarnations of magical Prague; an incredible union of earthly humor and baroque imagination… What is unique about Hrabal is his capacity for joy.”

I would be hard-pressed to question Milan Kundera’s appreciation of literature. Instead—and as I’ve...more
A few decades back when I was exploring the world of "foreign film" for the first time, the 1966 Czech movie adaptation of this Czech novella turned up frequently in the film reference compendiums, listed among the "great foreign films" or "greatest films." I think I first saw reference to it in one of Leslie Halliwell's retrospective movie essay books. I don't notice the movie being as discussed or reverently mentioned as it once was, which is natural as the world turns, as more movies get made...more
It's short and to the point, boiling down to a big bang finale that might be straight out of an action movie within just over 100 pages, covering some very heavy subjects (war, resistance, holocaust) in between... and yet it manages to lull you into a false sense of security with its burlesque charm. Like all of Hrabal's heroes, the young train station attendant Miloš Hrma comes across as a pretty simple guy - both in the sense of not having any huge aspirations and in the sense of not being the...more
Leila Hashemi
"رمان «نظارت دقیق قطارها» نوشته بهومیل هرابال در سال 1965 به رشته تحریر درآمده است. داستان این رمان در کشور چک می‌گذرد و داستانی در دوران تسلط آلمان نازی به کشورهای اروپای شرقی را روایت می‌کند. شخصیت اصلی آن نیز کارمندی در اداره خط راه آهن چک است که سعی دارد به نوعی در آمد و شد قطارهای آلمانی اخلال ایجاد کند و این روحیه و اخلاق به نوعی شیوه و ابزاری است برای مخفی‌ماندن فعالیت او است."

پیشنهاد میکنم وقتی کمی از کتاب رو خوندید سری به صفحات اخر کتاب که یادداشت مترجم هست و خیلی دقیق و مفصل بخش به بخش...more
متن‌ها و روایت‌ها
بهومیل هرابال / نظارت دقیق قطارها / تهران: افراز، چاپِ دوم 1392ش
داستان‌های چک، قرن 20م

در یک جمله: قطار در حال حرکت، غرشی دارد که همیشه یک‌جور است چه در زمان صلح چه جنگ؛ با این تفاوت که در زمان صلح، شب‌ها از پنجره‌های درخشان خود نور نیز می‌پراکند.

آیا نویسنده، جامعه‌ای را به تصویر می‌کشد که افراد آن به مستمری‌ها و روزمرگی‌های خود دل‌خوش‌اند؟ جامعه‌ای اشغال شده، که با ضعف و عقب‌نشینی اشغال‌گران، بار دیگر نظم دقیقه‌شمار مراودات تحمیلی آن دچار اختلال و پوچی می‌شود؟
شاید، اما عمق و گستره‌ی سخن، فرات...more
A great novella that inspired a geat film, Hrabal had an eye for the prosaic in the huge events, and wove both together fabulously. A delightful tragedy. The film version, from 1966, is one of the great moments of the events leading up to the Prague Spring.
Good writing:

"Just the day before yesterday an enemy fighter shot up a German pursuit plane over our town, and blew one wing clean off it; and then the fuselage burned out, and crashed somewhere out in the fields. But this wing, as it tore loose from the fuselage, ripped out a few handfuls of screws and nuts to spatter down over the square and peck at the heads of several women there, and the wing itself went on hovering over the town, and everybody who could stood and watched it, right to the m...more
This dramatic and moving tale from the pen of Bohumil Hrabal is almost poetic in its sparse intensity. His story tells the fate of Milos Hrma, an apprentice signalman, who must deal with his own shortcomings even as he faces the onset of the German army. The novel’s young protagonist, Miloš, has just gotten out of an asylum after slashing his wrists and returns to work at the local train station, where that night he ends up taking part in the sabotage of a trainload of Nazi munitions. Through a...more
یک شاهکار سلاخی شده. برخلاف صحبت هایی که شنیده بودم، ترجمه ضعیف نبود؛ شاید به زیبایی کاری که پرویز دوایی در تنهایی پرهیاهو انجام داد نباشد، ولی به نظرم در مقایسه با ترجمه هایی که این روزها زیاد می خوانیم خوب رو به بالا بود. دو نکته - با این حال - صدمات ناراحت کننده ای به اثر زده:
اول اینکه ترجمه نه از زبان اصلی، که از انگلیسی انجام شده. به نظر من نباید یک اثر ترجمه شده را بار دیگر ترجمه کرد؛ مهم نیست کیفیت چقدر بالا باشد، زیرا به هر حال دست چندم است و صادقانه به نظر نمی آید. با این حال این نکته ق...more
Lenny Wick
A slight book - novella, really - with moments of intense poetry, I wavered as I read whether to mark this a literary 3-stars or a perhaps undeserved 4-stars. I say that with many caveats -- the treatment of war in a characteristically whimsical voice (that may well simply be Czech) leads to so many remarkable moments, this slim book deserves to be read regardless.

But an encounter with a German soldier at the end of a narrative that is more dream-like than forceful, enforces a jarring, brilliant...more
“Trenuri cu prioritate” este al doilea roman de Bohumil Hrabal apărut în seria de autor de la Editura Art. Dacă despre prima apariţie, “L-am servit pe regele Angliei“, nu mă mai opream din povestit, despre acest romănaş am mai puţine de spus.

Acţiunea celor 120 de pagini, suficiente pentru a putea include “Trenuri cu prioritate” chiar în categoria nuvelelor, se petrece într-o gară de provincie din Cehia, în timpul celui de-al Doilea Război Mondial, într-un răstimp de aproximativ o zi. Personaj pr...more
A slim but eventful Czech novella set at a small railway station towards the end of the Second World War. There's a distinctly surreal air, and a cinematic quality (it was in fact later made in to a film which I haven't seen) to this chapter in the life of young apprentice Milos Hrma, who, despite a simple desire for a quiet life and an end to his virginity finds himself performing an act of daring - or perhaps foolhardy - bravery.
Hrabal's novel highlights both the intrinsic value of humanity in...more
Rooja K-d
از هرابال «تنهایی پرهیاهو« رو خونده بودم که بدون شک یکی از بهترین هاس.
در مورد نظارت دقیق قطارها فکر کنم ترجمه بد کل کار رو از بین برده.
Li'l Vishnu
“Max, let go the handle-bars, let goooooo, Maaaaxx!” — p. 60

Here is only a slight sliver of a book. And it is anxious to get started right away. You are plunged into story after story. Often, a single paragraph has two stories within.

At some points, as in when Miloš is straddling the dead horse, it is very difficult to tell which story is the present story. But it was good to be that lost. To be somewhere in these memories, figuring I'd sort it out eventually. And it all swings gently between a...more
L Fleisig
Bohumil Hrabal's Closely Watched Train is a beautiful book whose lingering impact on the reader is greater than one would suspect from looking at its length - 85 pages. It is the story of a young man, Milos Hrma, an apprentice signalman in a Czech village railway station during WWII. The term closely "watched trains" refers to German military (soliers, prisoners, and munitions) trains that must be watched, tracked closely to ensure a smooth passage. Failure results in close (and often deadly) sc...more
Кремена Михайлова
Може би средно около 3,5.

„Строго охранявани влакове“:

След като прочетох едноименната новела, мислех за 3 звезди, защото бях някак настръхнала (дори от неизменния жилещ хумор на Храбал). Но после като разглеждах книгата и преписвах откъси, разбрах, че не мога да виня автора за реакцията си, напротив - мисля, че точно това е била целта на хапливата проза на Храбал. Нито е книга да се посмееш просто за кеф, нито ужасяващото е самоцелно…

Може би по време на четенето не бях толкова въодушевена, защото...more
Kris McCracken
Set in [then German-occupied] Czechoslovakia in 1945, the war is turning against the Germans and the presence of the Red Army looms not too far away. The story focuses on the life of one train controller, who has just be released back to work after an unsuccessful suicide attempt in the wake of a little premature ejaculation-incident. So straightforward then.

The ever-approaching war soon means that the morning trains arrive at noon, the noon trains in the evening, and the evening trains during t...more
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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
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“Аз стоях между коловозите и усещах как някой ме гледа, обърнах се и в отвореното прозорче на мазето видях очите на госпожа началничката, там, в тъмното, тя хранеше гъсока си и ме гледаше. Аз обичах госпожа началничката, тя обичаше надвечер да седне в канцеларията, плетеше голяма покривка за маса и от нейната плетка струеше тишина, под пръстите й се появяваха нови и нови цветя и птици, на телеграфната маса тя поставяше малка книжка и надничаше в нея да види как се събират нишките в следващите фигури, сякаш свиреше на цитра и четеше нотите. Но всеки петък тя екзекутираше зайци, вземаше от зайчарника едно зайче, притискаше го между краката си, а после забиваше във врата му тъп нож и почваше да коли животинчето, което пищеше, пищеше дълго, после гласчето му започваше да стихва, но госпожа началничката гледаше точно така, сякаш плетеше голямата покривка. Казваше, че когато кръвта на заека изтича бавно, месото му е много по-вкусно и крехко Отсега виждах как ще заколи големия гъсок, ще го яхне както кон, ще притисне оранжевата му човка към гърлото , както се затваря джобно ножче, първо грижливо ще му скубе перата отзад, после кръвта му ще тече в тенджерата, птицата ще отмалява, докато се отпусне напълно, госпожа началничката ще се дръпне и е клечи, подпряла задник на петите си.” 2 likes
“Значи, наистина не сте били с жена – каза тя и се засмя, имаше трапчинки като Маша, а очите й блеснаха, сякаш бе изпитала някаква радост или бе намерила скъпоценност, с пръсти започна да потупва косите ми, сякаш бях пиано, после погледна затворената врата към канцеларията и се наведе над масата, смъкна шишето и шумно духна лампата, напипа ме и ме поведе към дивана на господин началника, извърна се и ме смъкна върху себе си, и беше много нежна с мен, все едно че отново бях станал малък и мама ме обличаше и събличаше, позволи ми да й помогна да си вдигне полата, а после усетих как разтвори крака, стъпи с тиролските си обувки на дивана на господин началника, и аз изведнъж се оказах слепен с Виктория, така както бях слепен на снимката с моряшкото костюмче със снимката на Маша, и ме обгърна светлина, която ставаше все по-силна, аз непрекъснато се изкачвах, земята се тресеше, чуваше се тътен и грохот, имах чувството, че те не идват нито от мене, нито от тялото на Виктория, а отвън, че цялото здание се тресе из основи, прозорците дрънчат, чувах как в чест на моето славно и успешно влизане в живота зазвъняха и телефоните, телеграфите от само себе си започнаха да чукат морзови знаци, както се случва в гаровите канцеларии по време на буря, струваше ми се, че гълъбите на господин началника всички до един гукат, че и небето полита нагоре и пламва с цветовете на огъня, зданието на гарата отново се разтресе, основите му се разклатиха... А после почувствах как тялото на Виктория се изви в дъга, чувах как подкованите й обувки се впиват в тапицерията, чувах как се къса платът, къса се безспир, и някъде чак от ноктите на ръцете и краката ми към мозъка рукна ликуваща кръв, всичко изведнъж стана бяло, после сиво, сякаш се отливаше гореща вълна и ставаше студена, а в гърба си усетих приятна болка, сякаш някой бе забил в него зидарска кука.” 2 likes
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