Monday, February 20, 2017

I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal

genre: fiction

In the hotel restaurants of Prague, Ditie is a waiter.   Starting from the bottom as a busboy, he is determined to not let his humble beginnings and short stature deter him from making something of himself.   In love with both money and beautiful women, Ditie is present as Hitler rises to power and he watches as Prague is absorbed into the Reich.

I just can't even describe this book.  I can tell that it's comic and tragic but I never really felt invested into Ditie - his self-centeredness and obtuseness when it came to the political situation made it hard to care about what happened to him.  But then there were all these moments that were lovely or strangely moving or completely ridiculous and I couldn't give up on it.  It's certainly raunchy - not just his choices but his life as a waiter, seeing but not watching, hearing but not listening, puts him in a position to witness and participate in all kinds of debauchery.  

In some ways, just the narrative style made it challenging for me to feel very engaged. It's written in first person but time flies by so fast and there is so little dialogue that sometimes I felt like I was watching a movie in fast forward as opposed to really watching it.  He does certainly life about life, though, as he gets older.  And I did like was that I learned a bit about Czech Republic both during and after the war from a unique perspective (from someone that is both insider and outsider) and while I have a hard time recommending it, I'm not sorry I read it.

1 comment:

Molly said...

Sounds interesting. I prefer a book with more dialogue too.

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