The Book of Hrabal

Péter Esterházy

translated from the Hungarian by Judith Sollosy
Brandl and Schlesinger 1994
A book review by Danny Yee © 2006
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.

January 2006

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%T The Book of Hrabal
%A Esterházy, Péter
%M Hungarian
%F Sollosy, Judith
%I Brandl and Schlesinger
%D 1994 [1990]
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0646204726
%P 171pp