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Closely Observed Trains


A classic of postwar literature, a small masterpiece of humour, humanity and heroism from one of the best Czech writers

For twenty-two-year-old Milos, bumbling apprentice at a sleepy Czech railway station, life is full of worries: his burdensome virginity, his love for the pretty conductor Masha, the scandalous goings-on in the station master's office. Beside them, the part he will come to play against the occupying Germans seems a simple affair, in Bohumil Hrabal's touching, absurd masterpiece of humour, humanity and heroism. 

Closely Watched Trains, which became the award-winning Jiri Menzel film of the 'Prague Spring', is a masterpiece that fully justifies Hrabal's reputation as one of the best Czech writers of the twentieth century.

"Hrabal bounces and floats. His mode is a sort of dancing realism, somewhere between fairy tale and satire. He is a most sophisticated novelist, with a gusting humour and a hushed tenderness of detail. We should read him" -- Julian Barnes

"One of the most authentic incarnations of magical Prague; an incredible union of earthy humour and baroque imagination... What is unique about Hrabal is his capacity for joy" -- Milan Kundera

"Hrabal's comedy is completely paradoxical. Holding in balance limitless desire and limited satisfaction, it is both rebellious and fatalistic, restless and wise" -- James Wood ― London Review of Books

"A poignant, humorous tale" ― New York Times Book Review

"Hrabal is a spider of a writer: subtle and sly, patient, with invisible designs. He never proclaims ―he never needs to. He envelops."
― Parul Sehgal, The New York Times Book Review

"Hrabal, to my mind, is one of the greatest European prose writers."
― Philip Roth

"The essence of Hrabal’s fiction is to draw beauty from what isn’t, to find hope where we’re not likely to look―to show that we are all of us ‘magnificent.’"
― Meghan Forbes, Los Angeles Review of Books

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