Bohumil Hrabal

Born in a Czech brewery, Bohumil Hrabal (1914-1997) went on to become a steelworker and traveling salesman by day, and surrealist poet by night. In the 1950s he began to experiment with a stream-of-consciousness style. Banned in his native country during the political upheaval of Prague Spring, Hrabal nevertheless won the prestigious Jaroslav Seifert Prize in 1993 and has been celebrated as genius by Julian Barnes, Susan Sontag, and Milan Kundera. Many of his characters were “wise fools” – everyday men taken to drunken monologues of inadvertent but acute insight. Two of his novels have been made into classic films by Czech New Wave director Jiří Menzel – Closely Watched Trains, winner of the 1967 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, and Larks on a String, winner of the 1990 Golden Bear. Before his death, Publishers Weekly named him the “most revered living Czech writer,” describing his work as “a humorous and breathless affair… [of] abounding energy and a rambunctious wit.”

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