“I Served the King of England” was born during one summer month in blinding sunlight. The narrator, Ditie, a waiter, becomes a millionaire and owner of a hotel, but he loses everything when Communists seize power. Ditie's surname refers to a child (Dite). As Oscar Matzerath from Günter Grass' novel The Tin Drum (1959), he remains small in size. Ditie is a faithful servant of the elite, generals, presidents, ambassadors, and their orgies are natural part of the order of things for him. Under the Nazi rule, love is turned into a part of the Third Reich's human breeding program. Ditie is a simpleton and a soulmate of the Good Soldier Svejk, he never grows up and do not understand politics or history. His strength and curse is his naivety, and at the end of the story, when he has lost everything, he again recalls to moment when he served the Emperor of Ethiopia – but his superior had had the honor to serve the King of England.
This book is published with the support of Programme Culture 2000 of the European Union
Ouvrage traduit avec le soutien du Programme Culture 2000 de l'Union europеénne
Czech novelist and short story writer, whose tales show the influence of Surrealism, Dada, and psychoanalysis. Bohumil Hrabal gained international fame with Closely Watched Trains (1965), set in German occupied Czechoslovakia during World War II. The novel was also made into a highly successful film. Hrabal's writings were banned after the Soviet troops invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968.
Bohumil Hrabal was born near Brno, but his childhood Hrabal spent in Nymburk, where his step-father worked as a brewery manager. Just before the World War II, Hrabal entered Charles University, Prague. In 1937 his first printed work Prsi (it’s raining) was published in Nymburk newspapers. After the Nazis closed the universities, he took up various jobs, including a dispatcher in a small railway station and an assistent in a small law firm in Nymburk in 1939-1940. In 1946 Hrabal received his law degree, but he never practiced. Instead he tried a wide variety of occupations - he worked as a commercial and insurance agent, a steelworker in Kladno foundries, a handler of waste paper, and a stagehand in a Prague theater. These experiences provided him much material for his tales and anecdotes.
Hrabal established himself relatively late as writer, at the age of 49, although he had started to write poetry in the 1940s. Later he focused on prose text and novellas. From the early period dates Ztracena ulicka (a lost alley), his scheduled literary debut, which eventually was printed in 1991. Hrabal's first book of short stories, Perlicka na dne (a little pearl at the bottom), was not published until 1963. At that time the Czechoslovak communist regime moved toward more liberal policy. From Surrealists, he adopted the technique of "automatic writing", which especially marked his works from the 1970s. His works also show the influence of James Joyce and his stream-of-consciousness style.