Closely Watched Trains by Bohumil Hrabal "It w…

Closely Watched Trains

by Bohumil Hrabal

“It was torrid, turgid and melodramatic.”

Ok, ok so Brian said this about the Jessica Lange movie, “A Thousand Acres” but can I help if none of my friends have read this book? It would certainly be helpful if one had because then I could have someone to ask exactly what there is in this book that I’m missing – besides a plot.

There are two reasons I read this book. Well, rather there’s one reason why I bought it and another why I actually read it. I first heard about it here because there was an allusion to it in a Belle and Sebastian song which I’ve never heard entitled Hurley’s having dreams with the lyric “Hurley dreams of the time when he was a horse in Czechoslovakia” which according to the site “pertains well to the storyline” of this book.

Hmm. Well, he sits down on a dead horse at one point. Of course, then again there’s a lady who repeatedly has her bum “stamped” by another fellow who works at the train station with the main character. I think you could come up with much better lyrics from that scenario. It mentions this repeatedly and each time I thought, “What do they mean he was ‘stamping’ her behind. I don’t get it.” I still don’t. I realize it is a rubber stamp to her bare bum but the why, wherefore and how come elude me. Rubber stamps are really big in scrapbooking which a lot of my LDS friends are into. Maybe I’ll ask them about this scene.

The reason I wanted to actually read the book is based on a review or summary of it somewhere which I can’t find now. I did find something similar that read,

“…. Hrabal constructed his most orthodox narrative, drawing from a number of earlier works based on wartime experiences, two of them dealing with the subject of suicide. While his new emphasis lay on the hero’s quest for sexual initiation, he retained much of the originals’ taste for morbid imagery.”

“Readers loved Hrabal most of all for his inimitable prose – at times richly orally descriptive, other times sensually lyrical – which so completely captured life: from everyday dialogue – taken directly, it seems, from pubs and workplaces – via lyrical descriptions of nature, to philosophical expositions on the innermost meaning of life. Often, Hrabal fills his texts with odd characters, individuals from the fringes of society – anti-heroes of a sort – who possess a never-ending joy in their existence, a joy manifested foremost verbally.”

When will I ever learn not to trust reviews? Even when they look as if they’re the result of long hours with a thesaurus in hand, they tend to get my hopes up of something being good.

So yeah his prose was something you might here at a bar:

“There’s a smashing bummie!’ and he spat.

… Mr. Hubicka divided women into two categories. Those who carried their most striking attributes below the waist he called by the name he’d just applied to the Countess: bummies. And those who had beautiful and notable bosomes he called: busters. Just as one might use the terms curlie, smiler, blondie, and so on.”

This was one of the more amusing parts of the book too. I’m just not seeing it as “a joy manifested foremost verbally.”

Would someone please help me discover what I’m missing? It’s an 85 page book. I’ll lend you my copy for a clue.

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