Anna is the wife of a writer who is working on a book about the
Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal — and who closely resembles Esterhazy.
Pregnant, she wonders whether to get an abortion. She looks back over
her relationships with her in-laws. She has herself become obsessed by
Hrabal and engages in an imaginary affair with him. And she wonders
about the two men in the car outside who are obviously watching her,
not realising that they are angels sent by the Lord, only pretending to
be secret policemen.
The long central chapter of The Book of Hrabal is an extended inner
monologue by Anna; on either side of that are shorter third chapters
with mixed third person perspectives and dialogues, involving Anna, her
writer and his mother, the Lord and his angels, and jazz saxophonist
Charlie Parker. The style is allusive and the subject material is
disjoint, touching on prisons and interrogations and surveillance in
communist Hungary, theology, literature and writing, marriage and family,
and jazz music, among other topics. The Book of Hrabal lacks a plot or
driving story, but Esterhazy holds the reader with his abundant invention,
gentle humour, and scintillating prose.
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