Too Loud a Solitude
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...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
“Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.”
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
"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 ...more
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 ...more
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...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
“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 ...more
Nearly every chapter starts with a variatio ...more
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 ...more
“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 ...more
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