on ‘Harlequin’s Millions,’ by Bohumil Hrabal

13569179Michael Dirda at The Washington Post:

In the acknowledgments to her translation of this small masterpiece, Stacey Knecht writes, “Apparently, it is possible to fall in love with a writer you’ve never met.” Bohumil Hrabal (1914-1997) may not be a name familiar to many Americans, but that’s our loss. Milan Kundera — author of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” and much else — considered Hrabal his country’s greatest writer. Years ago, when a group of European literary folk visited The Washington Post, I had coffee with Ivan Klima and asked that distinguished author what Czech novel he would recommend I read. The answer was instantaneous: Bohumil Hrabal’s “I Served the King of England,” which chronicles the fortunes of a young waiter before, during and after World War II. Cinema buffs may recall that it was filmed in 2006 by Jiri Menzel, who also directed several other movies derived from Hrabal’s fiction, including “Closely Watched Trains,” which won the 1968 Oscar for best foreign film.

One of its author’s last completed novels, “Harlequin’s Millions” may look initially off-putting because Hrabal — like the Austrian Thomas Bernhard and the Portuguese José Saramago — doesn’t break up his chapters into paragraphs. He also likes run-on sentences, the better to reflect a narrator’s stream of consciousness.

more here.