Sunday, February 05, 2006

Hrabal Rousing

I'd read Too Loud a Solitude previously and found it enchanting--The Little Town Where Time Stood Still is equally brilliant and ranks as one of the most fun novels I've run across; actually there are two novellas combined into one book, the first told from the POV of Mary, the second by her young son. Mary's one of the most singularly bizarre narrators ever, and her whimsical tale reads like a fable tinged with eroticism and joy. She and her husband's brother Pepin (another amazing character) get into all kinds of trouble due to soft-headedness and restlessness and an ingenuity for chaotic behavior. Mary's husband Francin tries to hold the world together, and her father smashes furniture in repeated rages, and her son gets a tattoo at a tender age and various pets are hurt or killed while Germany invades, occupies, and then the Iron Curtain descends and yet things somehow remain ridiculous. Underneath it all run political critiques of fascism and Stalinism which are as entertaining as they are enlightening. I situate Hrabal somewhere between Garcia-Marquez, Borges, and Bruno Schultz. Great, great stuff.

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