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Too Loud a Solitude

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  15,474 ratings  ·  1,798 reviews

TOO LOUD A SOLITUDE is a tender and funny story of Haňťa - a man who has lived in a Czech police state - for 35 years, working as compactor of wastepaper and books. In the process of compacting, he has acquired an education so unwitting he can't quite tell which of his thoughts are his own and which come from his books. He has rescued many from jaws of hydraulic press and

Paperback, 98 pages
Published August 1st 2007 by Abacus (first published 1976)
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Adéla Michalíková Because Kundera himself has always wanted to be an author with world-wide impact and thanks to Unbearable Ligthness of Being, he became one. If you co…moreBecause Kundera himself has always wanted to be an author with world-wide impact and thanks to Unbearable Ligthness of Being, he became one. If you compare translations of Czech authors into English, Kundera is the second most translated (first is Karel Čapek) and Hrabal is only at the 9th place. Probably because his texts are much more bound to the Czech language and therefore more difficult to translate. And I would personally say that Kundera is much more easy to read and understand. (less)

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Ahmad Sharabiani
Příliš Hlučná Samota = Prilis Hlucna Samta = Too Loud a Solitude, Bohumil Hrabal

Too Loud a Solitude is a short novel by Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal. Self-published in 1976 and officially in 1989.

The entire story is narrated in the first person by the main character Hanta.

Hanta is portrayed as a sort of recluse and hermit, albeit one with encyclopedic literary knowledge. Hanta uses metaphorical language and surreal descriptions, and much of the book is concerned with just his inner thoughts, as
I had been meaning to read Hrabal's classic novella for quite a while, but last night I finally picked it up. Instantly, I was transported to the world of Hantá in a crumbling Communist Prague. Hrabal combines lyrical descriptions of the pleasures - and the necessity - of reading, with surreal passages revealing Hantá's tangible interactions with the figures in his books, in a world where reading and intellectual and creative engagement are no longer valued. It is a stunningly written, very orig ...more
Rare books perish in my press, under my hands, yet I am unable to stop their flow: I am nothing but a refined butcher. Books have taught me the joy of devastation.

A trip down the history lane by walking through the ruins which once stood tall in their resplendence and laurels can make one hear the echoes of steadfast voices that match the rhythm of our steps and seek to become the teller of stories of an era gone by, of wars fought, won and lost; of love – both passionate and eternal. In the sa
Mar 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All Book-Lovers; without exception.
Existence. Tearing Existence. Endearing Existence. Suppressed Existence. Spirited Existence. Delusional Existence. Resuscitating Existence. Multiple Existence. Solitary Existence. Existence.

Overriding all the comprehensible and perplexing spaces joining the various uneven points of existence in the larger lattice of congruent existence, I have pushed the ship of my life with the ardour of a sincere helmsman, trained to always prioritize steering over stalling. But did someone tell me that the se
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Only the winds
Shelves: read-in-2016
“Literature is resistance”, the lugubrious voice of the narrator, who speaks from the sewers of our conscience, whispers in ruthless crudity.

Literature keeps Hant’a alive in the suffocating cellar that he shares with filthy rodents, giant botflies and gypsy prostitutes.
For thirty-five years, Hant’a has worked the jaws of his hydraulic press destroying all kind of books, lithographs and artistic imprints by trade and saving them for passion. The physical books disappear, but their essence remains
This is a few weeks in the mind and life of Hant’a, in mid 1970s Prague, who has been drunkenly compacting wastepaper in a hydraulic press for 35 years, in a dark cellar infested with mice, flies, blood, and sometimes shit.

Well, it is that. But it absolutely is not that at all.

Every beloved object is the center of a garden of paradise.

This is a beautiful paean to the transformative power of words on paper.
About finding beauty in the dirtiest, most unlikely places.
How devotion can manifest it
Jul 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: czech

“Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.”
~ Aristotle

And all is lost now
but what have I lost
for what I really had to lose.

Darkness is clouding over me
the time has come
weariness is taking over me,
there were times
when mind and body
used to act in unison.
The child has long gone now
Childishness is also going now
waiting for the eternal plunge.

And I see
there is life
taking birth again
the eternal place
where the fates of dusk and dawn get exchange.

The Others say
an exc
How to write about a book that deals with compression when I am reading it thanks to dispersed and ephemeral distinctions?

For if Hrabal has written a magic and allegorical story of the character Hantá who dedicates his life to compressing large volumes of discarded books into still voluminous bales of paper, I am reading a story which as if by magic emerges section by section on my screen acquiring in this act an additional allegorical layer.

For Hantá realizes that compression does away with di
Nov 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Recommended to Florencia by: Seemita's review
Not until we're totally crushed do we show what we are made of. (96)

This is a book whose length can be quite deceiving. Nonetheless, this novella has the predictable ability of leading the path towards something rather extraordinary: a bibliophile's sanctuary.
This was a difficult book to rate. At first, it was a solid four-star book. But I chose to overlook the few passages that did not captivate me entirely and made me feel somewhat lost at times (yes, the more I think about it, the more I writ
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: slavic
Socialism Remaindered

Was Hrabal the Studs Terkel of Moravia? He and Terkel were more or less contemporaries. From similarly humble backgrounds, they both got law degrees. Both were blacklisted and censored for questionable patriotism. Both were famed raconteurs. Most importantly, both concerned themselves mainly with working people and their culture.

The difference of course is that Terkel, in his Working in particular, asks people about how their jobs gave positive meaning to their lives. Hraba
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cheryl by: Garima
"Each of us had a decent home library of books we'd happened to rescue, and each of us read those books in the blissful hope of making a change in his life."

What if ideas no longer had permanence? What happens when beautiful, psychedelic sentences are replaced with harebrained dialogue? What would you do, when there you are, stuck in no-man's land, without an electronic device or internet connection, and there are no physical books to keep you stimulated? What happens when you can't escape y
Sep 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: eternity times eternity squared
Recommended to Mariel by: my road to Damascus moment
I can be by myself because I'm never lonely, I'm simply alone, living in my heavily populated solitude, a harum-scarum of infinity and eternity, and Infinity and Eternity seem to take a liking to the likes of me."

Haòtá of Too Loud a Solitude would be friends with me if he were on goodreads. He would so! So what if I haven't read Hegel or Kant? So what if I could only quote from Terry Pratchett (a wise man in his own write)? The books are his whole life and he talks about them as if nothing would
Mar 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hsk
On a lazy summer day, at the age of 5, I made my first true friend. As I stared deeper into its face, I begged, pleaded my mother to let me be friends with this elegant thing. Even with a stubborn promise of practicing my cursive writing for an hour daily, it took my mother more than a week to be able to allow me to bring this new friendship in my life. Over the years, I have made several friends and have been at the receiving end of the love-hate relationship for decades. Some have chosen me an ...more
Sep 22, 2012 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Fionnuala by: Kris

I read this on a train so was able to continue without a break until the book was finished, and since the narrator’s world is quite compacted, such a reading felt right.

The first paragraph was sublime, with sentences such as this: I am a jug filled with water both magic and plain; I have only to lean over and a stream of beautiful thoughts flows out of me. Or this one: Because when I read I don’t really read; I pop a beautiful sentence into my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop, or I sip it li
May 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Laysee by: Tsung
Shelves: five-star-books

"For thirty-five years now I've been in wastepaper, and it's my love story."

These words launched an ineffably beautiful story about one man's love for the world of books. I believe "Too Loud A Solitude" will speak to anyone who lives in words and cannot imagine a life apart from books.

The narrator, Hanta, worked at a hydraulic press as a paper packer. He salvaged rare books from the piles of old papers condemned to being compacted. It was a dream job for its wide doorway to truth and beauty. Ha
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Algernon (Darth Anyan) by: Ema
Shelves: favorites, 2013

If a book has anything to say, it burns with a quiet laugh, because any book worth its salt points up and out of itself.

As another author whose name escapes me right now : we all live in the gutter, but some of us look up at the stars. In a hole in the ground, in the old city of Prague lives a man named H'anta. All day long he struggles with mountains of discarded paper, pressing them into square boxes of pulp, fueled by gallons of beer and visions of saints and sinners, philosophers and poets
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Margaret by: Dolors and Jibran

I chose to read Bohumil Hrabal’s Too Loud a Solitude because I had loved Rabih Almeddine’s An Unnecessary Woman, and two of my Goodreads friends (thanks Dolors and Jibran) thought that if I liked that book, I surely would appreciate Hrabal’s short novel as well. As it turned out, they were both exactly right.

Imagine opening up a book and finding these words spoken by Hant’a, the protagonist, tucked inside the very first paragraph:
My education has been so unwitting I can’t quite tell which
Jun 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites, 2012
Bohumil Hrabal may have been dear to god (its what his name means), but certainly not to the Czech communist party, who forced him to recant ‘his evil capitalist ways’ in 1975 and still they didn’t publish him. ‘Too Loud a Solitude’ circulated in the underground press only. And still, the dissidents called him a ‘whore’.

But Hrabal, I’m sure, wrote this gem with every hope for official publication. It is subversive, and perverse, but in the most ephemeral, double entendre, understated way. Blink
Dec 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is not a love story. It was once, but my relationship with books has soured. Reading is, these days, like swallowing a cheap broth, one that contains the occasional scrap of meat, but which is, for the most part, thin, watery and bitter. Yet as a child I would avoid school and every day take myself to the local library. I would stand before the shelves in awe, almost afraid to touch, as I was so unused to things offering themselves to me. The rows seemed endless, unconquerable; and yet I pe ...more
Steven Godin
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am not quite sure how a book can pull off extremes of slapstick comedy and weirdness, plus Kafka-esque political seriousness, but Bohumil Hrabal here gives us the best of both worlds. This novella tells of Hanta, a man who has lived in a Czech police state for many years, and works a compressing machine for wastepaper and books in a basement thick with flies and alive with rodents. That is until the latest addition to the company - an automatic press, puts his job future in jeopardy. This shar ...more
Aug 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
"If a book has anything to say, it burns with a quiet laugh, because any book worth its salt points up and out of itself."

This is a book that opens like a heart, and goes on to tell a story that beats one into a complete, tender, poignant submission, so that you hold it past the last word as if in a wake, and with your hand along its spine think upon every book you've ever loved.

Or rescued, as Haňťa does, from being lost forever and crushed into nothingness: books that he says fill him—"with
Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A tragicomic and unconventional portrayal of a sensitive and idiosyncratic bibliophile.
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bohumil Hrabal is a master with words. To understand his mastery, one must know that in addition to novelist, Hrabal is also a Palaverer. I couldn't find a precise definition of the word, other than one who palavers, which is not helpful so I'll give it a go myself. A Palaverer is a literary, grammatical, and story acrobat. More specifically, a Palaverer writes extremely long sentences, sometimes as long as an entire book. They aren't just long for length's sake but also tell a story. Bohumil Hr ...more
ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos)(RK)
Apr 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more...." (Apologies to W.S.)
“But just as a beautiful fish will occasionally sparkle in the water of a polluted river that runs through a stretch of factories, so in the flow of old paper the spine of a rare book will occasionally shine forth, and if for a moment I turn away, dazzled, I always turn back in time to rescue it, and after wiping it off on my apron, opening it wide, and breathing in its print, I glue my eyes to the text and read the fir
Hrabal was quite a man. He seems to have understood, and relished, life's absurdities and joys while criticizing societal failures with the nib of his pen. This work feels fresh enough to have been written today, and paradoxically has the feel of a book a century or two old. His mention, more than once, of the phrase "not until we're totally crushed do we show what we are made of" awakens the reader to the anguish in his "world of moral contradictions."

Nearly every chapter starts with a variatio
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I first heard about this book when I listened to episode 185 of the Book Fight Podcast, where they discussed the book Closely Watched Trains. While describing the background and context of that novel, they mentioned this one in passing, and it sounded right up my alley.

The central character of Hanta works as a trash compactor in the years immediately following the defeat of the Nazis in World War II. He also rescues books from his workplace and has been hoarding and stacking endless books on his
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-for-uni, owned
Is there anything more beautiful than a book about love for books?
Diane S ☔
Mar 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is an irresistible journey through old town Prague, with Hanta, a man whose job is the crushing, compacting and recycling of paper, novels, letters, etc. He steals moments on his job, reading books and acquiring an odd sort of education, becoming quite familiar with the leading philosophers. He takes many of the bales home, using his artistic expression and inserting whole volumes in the middle of the bales. His home, filled with these bales of papers is in danger of crumbling down on him. ...more
Anushree Rastogi
May 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Before I even begin with the review, I'd like to thank Mohit Parikh, who is forever providing me with books that seem to be available nowhere else.

“Because when I read, I don’t really read; I pop a beautiful sentence into my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop, or sip it like a liqueur until the thought dissolves in me like alcohol, infusing brain and heart and coursing through the veins to the root of each blood vessel.”

I've spent a lifetime cherishing words. Those frugal instruments we have at
May 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: eastern-europe
Hantá loves his job. It gives his life a sense of purpose and within the bounds of what he is commanded to do, he has enough autonomy to feel good about the decisions he makes. His job, which he has undertaken for thirty-five years, is to compress books - which have been confiscated by the state - into neat bales which can be taken away and destroyed. That beauty is a feature of his work comes about because of the love he, a genuine autodidact, has developed for great books and art. He structure ...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

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“Because when I read, I don't really read; I pop a beautiful sentence into my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop, or I sip it like a liqueur until the thought dissolves in me like alcohol, infusing brain and heart and coursing on through the veins to the root of each blood vessel.” 291 likes
“I can be by myself because I'm never lonely; I'm simply alone, living in my heavily populated solitude, a harum-scarum of infinity and eternity, and Infinity and Eternity seem to take a liking to the likes of me.” 255 likes
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