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Harlequin's Millions
     

Harlequin's Millions

5.0 1
by Bohumil Hrabal
 

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By the writer Milan Kundera called Czechoslovakia's greatest contemporary writer comes a novel (now in English for the first time) peopled with eccentric, unforgettable inhabitants of a home for the elderly who reminisce about their lives and their changing country. Written with a keen eye for the absurd and sprinkled with dialogue that captures the poignancy of the

Overview

By the writer Milan Kundera called Czechoslovakia's greatest contemporary writer comes a novel (now in English for the first time) peopled with eccentric, unforgettable inhabitants of a home for the elderly who reminisce about their lives and their changing country. Written with a keen eye for the absurd and sprinkled with dialogue that captures the poignancy of the everyday, this novel allows us into the mind of an elderly woman coming to terms with the passing of time.

Praise for Too Loud a Solitude:

"Short, sharp and eccentric. Sophisticated, thought-provoking and pithy." —Spectator

"Unmissable, combines extremes of comedy and seriousness, plus pathos, slapstick, sex and violence all stirred into one delicious brew." —The Guardian

"In imaginative riches and sheer exhilaration it offers more than most books twice its size. At once tender and scatological, playful and sombre, moving and irresistibly funny." —The Independent on Sunday

Praise for I Served the King of England:

"A joyful, picaresque story, which begins with Baron Munchausen-like adventures and ends in tears and solitude." — James Wood, The London Review of Books

"A comic novel of great inventiveness ... charming, wise, and sad—and an unexpectedly good laugh." —The Philadelphia Inquirer

"An extraordinary and subtly tragicomic novel." —The New York Times

"Dancing Lessons unfurls as a single, sometimes maddening sentence. The gambit works. Something about that slab of wordage carries the eye forward, promising an intensity simply unattainable by your regularly punctuated novel." —Ed Park, The New York Times Book Review

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 02/24/2014
A surreal and loquacious tale by Hrabal (I Served the King of England) takes place in a retirement home tucked within a small Czech castle. After selling their villa, a nameless woman and her husband, Francin, become the home’s newest residents. Though familiar with the castle—Francin’s older brother, Pepin, who is ill, has lived there for several months—the pair still find themselves adjusting to the new environment. While Francin envelops himself with news of the world, his wife—Hrabal’s narrator—explores the castle, discovering secret statue gardens, beautiful battle frescoes hung up in the eating hall, and a trio of men (known as the “witnesses to old times”) who whisk her away with tales of their shared home, a “little town where time stood still,” visible from the castle windows. As the narrative unspools (while the record “Harlequin’s Millions” plays nonstop at the home), the backstory of Francin and his wife takes shape. But Hrabal is more interested in constructing a book of memories: his narrator and the people around her frequently recall past triumphs and humiliations, former friends and acquaintances. Billed as “a fairy tale,” the novel, at times, fancifully confounds expectations: a visiting doctor’s lesson on classical music turns into a psychotic rampage, for example. And Hrabal’s long, lyrical sentences (each chapter consists of a single paragraph) are not only exquisitely constructed, but also as spirited as the scenes they illustrate. (May)
From the Publisher
"A surreal and loquacious tale. . . . Billed as "a fairy tale," the novel, at times, fancifully confounds expectations. . . and Hrabal's long, lyrical sentences (each chapter consists of a single paragraph) are not only eloquently constructed, but also as spirited as the scenes they illustrate."Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"[A] uniquely compelling blend of parable, fantasy, social realism and testament to the power of storytelling. . . . the voice of the narrator is spellbinding, even as the reader becomes less sure of her credibility. . . . An enchanting novel, full of life, about the end of life." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

"Hrabal’s images and language, his anecdotes and precise observations create an exceptionally sensuous reverie about the passage of time. . . Hrabal elicits from his adult reader not just sweet Proustian melancholy but also a better, deeper appreciation of the bright but evanescent sunshine outside." Washington Post

"Knecht has guided this quiet book into an engaging, heartfelt experience without letting it drop into mawkish emofiction." Shelf Awareness

"You get to laze around in beautiful, page-long sentences deep with observation and memory. The rhythm and lyricism are powerful and subtle. I can’t believe I’m writing this. It sounds like a book I would detest. And yet it stays perched at the top of my longlist." — BTBA Judge George Carroll

"The song ['Harlequin’s Millions'] infuses the book, a sad soundtrack to a novel that manages to be vibrant and wistful. Thanks to Stacey Knecht’s expert translation, one of the 20th century’s most inventive literary talents feels very much alive."  Malcolm Forbes, The Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Czechoslovakia's greatest living writer." —Milan Kundera

"Hrabal, to my mind, is one of the greatest living European prose writers." —Philip Roth, 1990

"There are pages of queer magic unlike anything else currently being done with words." The Guardian

"Hrabal is a most sophisticated novelist, with a gusting humour and hushed tenderness of detail." —Julian Barnes

"What Hrabal has created is an informal history of the indomitable Czech spirit. And perhaps ... the human spirit."The Times

"“Bohumil Hrabal, for all reductive purposes, is the Czech Proust: meaning, he’s of the same stirring brilliance, but also meaning that Proust is the French Hrabal. . . Few possess a voice as bold as any one of the many Hrabal has served up. . . What is not okay is to let him slip away from a mainstream eye, and stay reserved for readers looking to 'challenge' themselves." Tweed's Magazine of Literature and Art

Library Journal
12/01/2014
This charmer from the late, great Czech author (Closely Watched Trains) is set at the castle of Count Špork, which is now a retirement home; its newest residents are the narrator and her husband, Francin. If there's a castle, there's a fairy tale, and fairy tales mean adventure (our protagonists make some interesting discoveries as they explore the grounds) and magic, as in magical language, flowingly abundant here (each chapter is a single paragraph). The characters don't just dwell in the present but reconstruct the past, not always golden—although the book surely is.
Kirkus Reviews
2014-04-02
The late Czech novelist, both banned and renowned in his homeland, offers a uniquely compelling blend of parable, fantasy, social realism and testament to the power of storytelling. Originally issued in 1981 and belatedly translated into English, this novel (by the author of I Served the King of England, 1971, etc.) offers stream-of-consciousness narration by an unnamed woman in her mid-60s who lives with her husband and uncle in a castle that has been converted into an old-age home. Much of what she writes is memory, some is description of her daily activities, much of it might be illusion. Wafting through the air is the romantic, string-laden musical composition that gives the book its title, a timeless reverie that is omnipresent though some may not acknowledge or even hear it. She shares the stories of others, witnesses to a distant past, and she sees what they do: "I saw there what could no longer be seen, but what my friends and I did see, those old witnesses to old times, of which I myself was now one." Though each chapter is a single paragraph, with some very long sentences, the voice of the narrator is spellbinding, even as the reader becomes less sure of her credibility. Beyond that voice, there isn't much of a plot except the decline toward death that is everyone's plot. She tells of her life in "the little town where time stood still," where her husband ran the brewery and she was the envy of the other women. "Yes, it was a good thing I'd been so proud, that I'd stayed so young and pretty for so long," she says, leaving the reader to wonder whether it really was a good thing or if she really was as pretty as she remembered. Time really hadn't stood still: Communism cost her husband the brewery and the two of them their home, amid "huge parades that raise their fist at everything old." As she reflects, "[w]hat is life? Everything that once was, everything an old person thinks back on and tells you stories about, everything that no longer matters and is gone for good." An enchanting novel, full of life, about the end of life.< BR>★

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780981955735
Publisher:
Steerforth Press
Publication date:
05/06/2014
Pages:
260
Sales rank:
919,050
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Bohumil Hrabal (1914-1997) worked as a railway dispatcher during the Nazi occupation of then-Czechoslovakia, a traveling salesman, a steelworker, a recycling mill worker, and a stagehand. His novels, which include Too Loud a Solitude, Closely Watched Trains, and I Served the King of England, were censored under the Communist regime and have since been translated into nearly thirty languages. He fell to his death from the fifth floor of a Prague hospital, apparently trying to feed the pigeons. The author lives in Czech Republic.

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Harlequin's Millions 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago