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Too Loud A Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal
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Too Loud A Solitude (1976)

by Bohumil Hrabal

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,101357,536 (4.01)73
  1. 10
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  2. 00
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    Molloy; Malone Dies; The Unnamable by Samuel Beckett (MaskedMumbler)
  4. 00
    The Last Summer of Reason by Tahar Djaout (labfs39)
    labfs39: Both are books about books and the people that risk their lives to save them and the ideas they represent.
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» See also 73 mentions

English (23)  French (4)  Italian (3)  Spanish (3)  Catalan (1)  Swedish (1)  All (35)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Depressing but effective character study of a man who has spent 35 years recycling paper. The books he finds has given him an education in the old school, and he has turned his bales of compressed paper into works of art with a hidden, carefully chosen text at its center. But the times change, and a new assembly line procedure that can work ten times as fast destroys his routine and the identity he has built around it. It ends badly. ( )
  dono421846 | Aug 15, 2017 |
Toiling away in the sewers of Prague, the hero of this story has spent the last 35 years compressing books and other paper into giant bales for a living. He’s a tool of censorship, yet every so often comes across a book which he adores and rescues, piling it up on shelves in his house. It’s an empowering, madcap book about prevailing despite oppression, with symbolism in the filth he’s surrounded by, the armies of rats, and the wild flies. The book is replete with references to philosophy and classic literature, but as with ‘I Served the King of England’, I found it a bit uneven and that it sometimes degenerated into immaturity.

Quotes:
On censorship:
“How much more beautiful it must have been in the days when the only place a thought could make its mark was the human brain and anybody wanting to squelch ideas had to compact human heads, but even that wouldn’t have helped, because real thoughts come from outside and travel with us like the noodle soup we take to work; in other words, inquisitors burn books in vain. If a book has anything to say, it burns with a quiet laugh, because any book worth its salt points up and out of itself. …. When my eye lands on a real book and looks past the printed word, what it sees is disembodied thoughts flying through the air, gliding on air, living off air, returning to air, because in the end everything is air, just as the host is and is not the blood of Christ.”

On oppression:
“Not until we’re totally crushed do we show what we are made of.”

On solitude:
“I can be by myself because I’m never lonely, I’m simply alone, living in my heavily populated solitude, a harum-scarum of infinity and eternity, and Infinity and Eternity seem to take a liking to the likes of me.” ( )
1 vote gbill | Nov 21, 2016 |
Hanta has spent the past thirty-five years pushing red and green buttons as the operator of a hydraulic trash compactor. It is a dull job, but Hanta doesn't mind it because it allows him to rescue books from the compactor's bale-making machinery. He takes these books home and reads them. He is one of the few people in Communist Czechoslovakia who still care about such things. When Hanta's alcoholism and frequent absences jeopardize his position, he has something of a nervous breakdown. At least I gather that that's what happened.

This short, philosophical novel is packed with vivid imagery. I would have appreciated an introduction or afterward to help me put the book in context. ( )
  akblanchard | Apr 8, 2016 |
Hrabal's Too Loud a Solitude has some good descriptions of the main character Hantá going about his paper compacting job, a career that exposes him to a myriad of books and also traps him in a cellar populated by mice, with armies of rats doing battle in the sewers just beneath his feat. There are also some good descriptions of how Hantá has created for himself a role of book and magazine rescuer for a few people who he turns over select tidbits to throughout the course of the story. Other than that, I don't have much to say about Too Loud a Solitude. Hrabal gives us a communist Prague police state, but doesn't do anything with it that I found particularly striking. At times Hantá hallucinates, or reminisces about his past, or visits his uncle. A few other thing happen too. At the end of the novella Hantá sees the end of his era and the rise of young communist laborers who don't have an appreciation for the things they are destroying like Hantá had. An older character realizing that his time is coming to an end and witnessing the younger generation replacing him is far from the most original story, but at least it gave Hantá some semblance of an arc, something that helped the story considering the rest of it felt so episodic.

I don't really know what I'll take away from this book (probably nothing): the description on the back describes the book as celebrating "the power and indestructibility of the written word," but that interpretation ignores the ending which clearly indicates that that the times when books will be snatched from the jaws of destruction are coming to a close. You might not be able to crush ideas, but the written word isn't invulnerable. Frankly, the idea that you can't kill an idea always struck me as a falsehood as well- ideas don't exist in some realm of Platonic forms, they're creations of humanity. Burn all the ways we've recorded it and kill all the people that hold it and an idea can die, perhaps to arise independently somewhere else, but perhaps not. To think that every idea has survived since the beginning of time seems very unlikely, not to mention inherently unfalsifiable.

There's another segment where Hantá visits his former love, the girl with the ribbons, that seems to argue that a life of actual experience is superior to the life of the mind that Hantá engages in with his books and his art. It's a bit of a strange message for the book to endorse. In general I don't think Too Loud a Solitude had a consistent message, which isn't something I absolutely require in a book, but which is something I like. Without a message this is the story of a man performing small acts of rebellion in a totalitarian regime not because of some idea of overthrowing the system, but because of his pure love of books. I love books too, but this story alone wasn't enough to stir much interest in me. The prose was good, but not transcendent, Hantá was an interesting character, but not one that felt like a flesh-and-blood man fully captured on the page, and nothing else in the book floored me.

Anyway, if I remember anything about this book in six month's time besides the image of Hantá operating his trash compactor on books and bloodstained butcher's paper in a mouse-colonized cellar it will be a miracle. ( )
  BayardUS | Jan 10, 2016 |
Con un incipit così bello, la delusione è troppo forte. ( )
  Filzero | Nov 27, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bohumil Hrabalprimary authorall editionscalculated
Heim, Michael HenryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mercks, KeesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Only the sun has a right to its spots.
- Goethe
Dedication
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For thirty-five years now I've been in wastepaper, and it's my love story.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156904586, Paperback)

Hantá rescues books from the jaws of his compacting press and carries them home. Hrabal, whom Milan Kundera calls “our very best writer today,” celebrates the power and the indestructibility of the written word. Translated by Michael Henry Heim.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:44 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Hant rescues books from the jaws of his compacting press and carries them home. Hrabal, whom Milan Kundera calls "our very best writer today," celebrates the power and the indestructibility of the written word.

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