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Bohumil Hrabal

Bohumil Hrabal

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.

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