Saturday 14 May 2016

A review of Bohumil Hrabal by Charles Simic in the New York Review of Books had me pondering a Russian proverb: 'In the vegetable garden grows the elder tree, and uncle is in Kiev'. The inconsequence plus the elements of vegetable garden, elder tree, uncle and Kiev, gave me a feeling of intense familiarity and contentment. I understood or recognised without understanding or recognition. The small leaps between vegetable garden, elder tree, uncle and Kiev, the dislocation and the warmth, the lightness of being, swam delightfully together.
(Hrabal) said he always had the impression that people who kept rabbits, hoed their own potatoes, and butchered animals lived more intensely. In the midst of some ordinary story they'd surprise you by saying something extraordinary.
I keep hens but butcher them with circumspection, if at all. I endeavour to keep rabbits away from young trees and indeed the vegetable garden. Talk around hens, live or dead, around potatoes and rabbits is vivid enough for six in the era of digital treasure.

Thus primed I return to Too Loud A Solitude and relish it so much I have to stop after only a few pages. Yes, yes and yes. Hrabal is a hectic writer. He sucks on sentences like sweets, drinks in order to think better, to read better, to go to the heart of what he reads. Too Loud A Solitude is narrated by a book-compactor. All day he compacts books in a hydraulic press, rescuing and reading volumes here and there, learning the joys of devastation, the pleasures of the wrecking ball.
I can be by myself because I'm never lonely, I'm simply alone, living in my heavily populated solitude, a harm-scarum of infinity and eternity, and Infinity and Eternity seem to have taken a liking to the likes of me.

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