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The Hideout by Egon Hostovský

The Hideout

by Egon Hostovský

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*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

The Hideout is a farewell letter from a man who has decided to strike a blow to the Nazis for the French resistance to a wife he left years before, apologizing for his mistakes and reflecting on how he ended up in his position. It’s not a typical WWII novel about giving a strong resistance to Nazi Germany, or even being a tragic victim of the regime, but rather an honest account of a weak-willed man who has a hard time making decisions and who was really just caught in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong set of circumstances. He’s not a hero, but a man who was unhappily married and trying to find happiness. In some ways, the narration reminded me of The Stranger by Camus. It’s not really an existential piece of work, but it has that same fluid type of narrative with a flawed character that I had trouble either rooting for or against.

What I loved about this novel was its approach towards providing an honest account; the narrator is not colored as a hero or a tragic victim; rather, he is simply a man in unfortunate circumstances. His confinement in his friend’s basement isn’t thrilling or heroic; it’s boring. The darkness blinds him, the isolation drives him mad, and he has so little to eat, he ends up losing his teeth. The narration is honest and straightforward and paints a bleak picture of the situation. While the story itself isn’t particularly thrilling, it brought up a lot of questions for me to ponder. Would it have been better for him to work with the Nazi government and chance meeting his wife and kids someday down the road? What is more important: family or keeping dangerous technology out of the hands of immoral people? What does happiness really mean anyway? And how can we possibly redeem our mistakes and the hurt done to the ones we love?

The Hideout is a short read and I’d recommend reading it in one setting in order to get the full effect of the story as a whole. I don’t think it’s the kind of story everyone would enjoy, but I do think that it’s worth a read. If you’re at all interested in literary works and analyzing them to find a deeper meaning, this one is definitely prime material for that; I could see this as a great companion to the World War II unit in a classroom.

Also posted on Purple People Readers. ( )
  sedelia | Jul 26, 2017 |
Right before the onset of the Second World War, a Czech engineer leaves Prague for Paris, in the vague hope of an extramarital affair. He soon learns that the Germans have occupied his country. He is also informed that they have issued a warrant for his arrest since he had previously developed a gunsight which could be a gamechanger in the forthcoming hostilities. From the dank, dark cellar of a French friend where he hides for nearly two years of the war, our hapless protagonist writes to his wife – his “dearest Hanichka” – what is at once a love-letter and a confession. He explains his sudden disappearance, describes his voluntary imprisonment and how he, uncharacteristically, killed a man in cold blood. He also speaks about an imminent, momentous decision which he needs to make, and which may yet redeem him.

Czech-born, US-based author Egon Hostovsky was much admired by Graham Greene and, on the basis of this novella (translated from the Czech by Fern Long), it is not difficult to understand why. This philosophical thriller presents us with a man grappling with his conscience, trying to find moral bearings in extraordinary circumstances where peacetime rules of good and evil no longer seem to apply. The sense of claustrophobia is well brought out and the moral dilemmas portrayed provide much food for thought. ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Apr 28, 2017 |
A man writes a long overdue letter to his distant wife, from the cellar where he has been hiding in Normandy since the invasion of France by the Nazis. It is a confession, an affirmation and a form of self-analysis. The narrator is by turns ridiculous and profound, confined in his hiding place while war rages above: forced, while great events unfold unseen outside, to retread the well-worn paths of his own memories. Yet, in coming to understand his past, he has more sense of purpose in the present and, finally, begins to see the shape that his own future must take...

For the full review, due to be published on 26 April 2017, please see my blog:
https://theidlewoman.net/2017/04/26/the-hideout-egon-hostovsky ( )
  TheIdleWoman | Apr 25, 2017 |
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