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Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  6,521 ratings  ·  480 reviews
Tématem svérázného vyprávění je životní dráha číšníka, později hoteliéra a nakonec cestáře v době politických zvratů první poloviny 20. století.
Od 20. až do 50. let tohoto století prožívá svůj příběh jednoduchý, od mládí podnikavý a snaživý muž, který své úspěchy i neúspěchy připisuje shodám okolností, ale využívá jich k překonávání svých handicapů. Opovržení ze strany dr
Hardcover, 260 pages
Published 2012 by Mladá fronta (first published 1971)
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Dec 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top-10-2014, czech
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 sli
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 have a reason
Algernon (Darth Anyan)

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
Jun 02, 2011 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 u
Dec 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Czech writer, Bohumil Hrabal, is a raconteur par excellence. “I Served the King of England” is a highly entertaining story about how the unbelievable comes true many times over for Ditě. When we first make his acquaintance, he is only age 15 and a busboy at the Grand Prague Hotel. The story follows Ditě’s colorful career in the hotel industry from busboy to waiter, to lead waiter and to hotel owner; his sexual exploits; his self-awakening. In essence, it is the story of Ditě, a pint-size man try ...more
Feb 11, 2012 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
Jeannette Nikolova
Also available on the WondrousBooks blog.

I bought this book during my trip to Prague as part of my project to get a book or two in each new country I visit. Now, this is not my first Czech book, but I wanted to try a new Czech author nevertheless.

In my opinion, one of the best things about the book was actually the foreword. Unfortunately, I don't have the book right now, so I can't mention the author of the foreword, but they wrote a very informative, interesting and engaging analysis of both "I Served the King of"I
Apr 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature-czech
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 tha
"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 seriously
Mike Nettleton
Jul 14, 2012 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
Oct 12, 2014 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
May 06, 2013 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
Adam Dalva
May 26, 2014 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 know the (excellent) work of Stefan Zweig was the direct inspiration of The Grand Budapest Hotel, but it's almost difficult to believe that I Served the King of England didn't play some role. After all, it's the story of the remarkable misadventures of a Middle European hotelier who tries to cope with Nazism, Bolshevism, and his own piss-poor luck. The style is similar to the other Hrabal books I've read, tragicomic and weirdly sweet even at its darkest, very much in the mode of writers like Z ...more
Alex Kudera
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I began this book in November, took a break well into it, but read the last fifty pages over the past few days. The first chapter is amazing and there are plenty of interesting scenes and asides throughout. Descriptions are often extremely rich, and the novel often has unique ways of addressing 20th-century European history (no spoilers).
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourite
The unbelievable came true.

“I served the King of England” is good old-fashioned storytelling and it goes straight to my favourites shelf. Hrabal is a master raconteur although his style may not appeal to everybody. It is rambling with long sentences and yarns which join together without a logical connection. Yet his stories are quirky, hilarious and grab your attention.

“When I started to work at the Golden Prague Hotel, the boss took hold of my left ear, pulled me up and
Jan 05, 2012 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
Stacey Jones
May 31, 2015 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
Aug 05, 2011 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 co
May 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europe, 2014
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
Jun 28, 2014 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
I think I have grasped this strange tendency of Poles to like Hrabal really much. There is something very intensive in the way he writes and the way he shows some things and he is not really afraid of showing every aspect of someone's life (even if in very grotesque way). So Hrabal kind of becomes an universal language for many people and I would be lying if I said that it did not affect me. In fact, I enjoyed this book, maybe not to the very end (some parts were a bit disturbing for me as well ...more
Jun 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, czech
Translated by Paul Wilson (1980). A rich stream of consciousness novel, about Dite, a waiter who moves up in the world of Czech hotels, until the Germans invade and he marries a German woman. It jarred me: at first an absurdist romp, admiration for living life to its fullest à la Kazantzakis, then extremely abruptly, political nightmares intrude, and tragedy (albeit blithely reported, blithely experienced) and bittersweet philosophical observations rear their heads. I laughed out loud at some of ...more
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It felt like -22 today and I'm off work with a cold I'm almost certain I will die from, but this morning I dragged my broken sinuses and the body holding it to Starbucks to read a chapter or two from this book my little brother recommended. I stayed for a caffiene buzzed three hours and read the majority of it all in one sitting. It's a page-turner and it's simple and FUN to read.


It mainly details a young short busboy (and later not-young, not a busboy, but still short) longing
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic plot that goes places you can't see coming (at least, if you go into this book blindly, as I did). A main character that goes from hero to anti-hero and back again so fluidly you almost don't see it happening before your eyes. Introspection and wistfulness that hits hard and remains relevant to the plot. Historical accuracy in its settings. And brilliant translation -- not that I've read the original Czech, but damn, if this were originally an English-language novel, I'd say it was rea ...more
This was a super uneven read for me. I was put off by the early chapters which were filled with Monte Python like physical humor and gratuitous objectification of women. The story bounced between lighthearted absurdities and grim horrors of the of the 20th century Czechoslovakian setting. I am certain much of the symbolic nuance was lost on me. I was often lost in the very long sentences and honestly I didn’t understand much of it. However, I absolutely adored the ending(view spoiler).

Too complicated to rate.
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Hrabal was also the author of Closely Watched Trains, which was made into a move and won the Oscar for best foreign language film in 1968. This book was also made into a film that I hope to watch some day:

Here is the trailer for the film version of I Served the King of England:

And here is Roger Ebert's movie review for I Served the King of England:
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: czech-literature
It is said that Hrabal's way of using the Czech language cannot be translated, but Czech language in itself is very hard to translate because of its many subtleties and nuances, many hues and edges. And then, there is a Czech spirit that is equally hard to catch if you haven't had the privilege to walk the golden streets of Prague, Chomutov, Velke Popovice or Decin or feel the quiet deep winters of the Bohemian forests. Yet, this particular edition of 1989 is good and Paul Wilson, the translato ...more
Salome Khaindrava
Mission is to stand out and bland in, as life gives us most unbeliveble stories. საკმარისია? - ჰოდა ეგრე...
The central figure in this, perhaps Hrabal’s most widely read book (although Closely Observed Trains might pip it at the post) is the ingenuous and frankly unlikeable Ditie, a low level hotel staffer turned waiter, maitre d’ and hotel owner in mid 20th Century Bohemia. He starts out in a small town hotel and finishes up owning a luscious place in Prague only to fall foul of the Communist rise to power in the late 1940s…. but this, as with much of Hrabal’s other work, is a satire, and absurd take on a ...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
“He was a gentle and sensitive soul, and therefore had a short temper, which is why he went straight after everything with an ax...” 90 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.” 7 likes
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