Confronting the Past: Contemporary Eastern European Writers

Bohumil Hrabal (1914-1997)

Closely Watched Trains

Background

  • Born in 1914 in Brno, Czechoslovakia.
  • Studied law at Charles University in Prague.
  • Died tragically in a fall.

Career

  • Before 1962, employed as lawyer's clerk, railway worker, insurance agent, salesman, foundry worker, paper salvage worker, stage hand, and stage extra; became a writer in his late forties.
  • Received Klement Gottwald State Prize 1968, the George Theiner Literary Prize and the Prague International Book Fair Prize in 1992 and the Jaroslav Seifert Prize for Literature in 1993.
  • Film version of Closely Watched Trains received Academy Award for best foreign language film in 1968.
  • Wrote more than fifty books and scripts including novellas, short stories, autobiography, poems, and screenplays.

Major Writings (available in translation)

Novellas:
Tanecni hodiny pro starsi a pokrocile
, 1964  (Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age, 1995)
Ostre sledovane vlaky, 1965 (Closely Watched Trains, 1968)
Prilizhlukna samota, 1980  (Too Loud a Solitude, 1990)
Obaluhoval jsem anglickaho krale, 1982 (I Served the King of England, 1989)

Short Stories:
Stories available in translation include "The Death of Mr. Baltisberger," "The Little Town Where Time Stood Still," and "Cutting it Short."  Contributor to anthologies, including Czech and Slovak Short Stories, ecited by Jeanne Nemcova, Oxford, 1968.

Screenplays:
(With Ivan Passer) Fadne odpoledne, adapted from the short story and released in the United States as A Boring Afternoon, 1968.
(With Jiri Menzel) Ostre sledovane vlaky, adapted from the novella of the same title and released in the United States as Closely Watched Trains.

Critical Sources and Reviews

  • Biographical and critical information in the following Gale publications: Contemporary Authors, Volume 156; and Contemporary Literary Criticism.  Gale Literary Database (Contemporary Authors Online) can be accessed online through a subscribing library at www.galenet.com.  
  • Other sources for biographical or critical information:
  • Cyclopedia of World Authors. 5 volumes. Ed. by Frank Magill.  1997.
    Obituaries:  Chicago Tribune, February 6, 1997;  New York Times, February 6, 1997; London Times, February 14, 1997; Washington Post, February 5,1997.
    Czech Literature Since 1956: A Symposium, William E. Harkins and Paul I. Trensky. Bohemica, 1980.
    Movies Into Film: Film Criticism, 1967-1970. John Simon, New York, 1971.



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