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Closely Watched Trains (European Classics) Paperback – March 9, 1995
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Original Language: Czech
Top Customer Reviews
This is a beautiful story, beautifully told. I also recommend the movie (available on Amazon)after reading the book. It won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1966. The screenplay was written by Hrabal and altough not totally faithful to the book's narrative it is well acted and serves as a nice complement to the book.
I strongly recommend this book.
The central character, Milos Hrma, is a young apprentice traffic controller, and the opening scenes of the book tend towards the comic, as Milos describes the attempts of his colleagues to get on with their everyday lives, seemingly oblivious to the historic events taking place around them. Milos's boss, Station-Master Lansky, is a ridiculous figure, obsessed with promoting himself both in the social hierarchy (he lays claim to aristocratic lineage) and in the hierarchy of the Czech railway system. Despite his eagerness for promotion, however, he pays more attention to his hobby of pigeon breeding than he does to the requirements of his job. Lansky's subordinate, Dispatcher Hubicka, is equally neglectful of his duties, although his main obsession is pursuing women; he is facing disciplinary proceedings for the offence of misusing Government property by using the station's official stamps to decorate the backside of an attractive young female telegraphist.
As the story progresses, it takes on a darker tone. We learn that Milos has recently returned to work after three months in hospital following an unsuccessful attempt at suicide. The cause of this attempt was depression brought on by impotence and his inability to consummate his relationship with his girlfriend.Read more ›
Milos Hrma, the main protagonist and narrator, is a railway apprentice during World War II in the German-occupied Czechoslovakia. He is in love with Masha, the ticket controller and his whole life is centered at the provincial railway station with the supervisor Lansky, whose passion are pigeons and ambition - to became accepted into aristocracy, and the promiscuous dispatcher Hubicka, Milos' teacher and role model.
The book starts with some family history and moves back and forth in time, as Milos recalls the events that led to his suicide attempt (from which he just recovered). As the story develops, we get to know the solution to his problem. We get from the light to the serious matters and back in the matter of a few pages. The prose is condensed and rich, evoking powerful imagery with few words.
The character of Milos is as complicated and full of contrasts as only the youth can be - he is innocent, insecure, romantic, silly, but incredibly brave at the same time.
The bittersweet Czech humor is here at its greatest, as well as the typical melancholy, which together with Hrabal's mastery of the language and his great observations and criticism of the national character, war circumstances from the perspective of the remote town, and the emotional turmoil of the protagonist, give the amazing mix, which will never get outdated and always be a pleasure to read - in other words, a perennial classic.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
There is no doubting Bohumil Hrabal is a master at his craft and in this novella which can be read in a single setting he packs quite a punch. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Annie
Bohumil Hrabal’s “Closely Observed Trains “ is a charming novel and a pleasure to revisit.
The setting of the novel is a small, yet strategic, railway station in... Read more
In this coming of age story set in German occupied Czechoslovakia toward the end of WWII, Hrabal reveals great range as a writer, from lyrical fantasy to farce and brutal realism. Read morePublished on January 31, 2013 by Ed Reeves
Closely Watched Trains is a vivid, often hilarious, devastating kick in the gut. Although written (and banned) in Soviet-era Czechoslovakia, the story hasn't lost much in... Read morePublished on December 9, 2010 by wendybird
Milos Hrama is a 22 year old Czech railroad apprentice in the closing days of WWII. Read more
Hrabal needed to show optimism. He published this book in the heyday of socialist realism. It is actually a sanitized version of a much wilder story, which was unpublishable. Read morePublished on July 22, 2009 by H. Schneider
This is not just another interesting little book from "The Other Europe." This is a world masterpiece. Read morePublished on May 14, 2009 by Gio
American and English readers will, if they are of a certain age, remember the film adaptation of this novella in the mid-1960's. Read morePublished on June 1, 2007 by Robert T. OKEEFFE