This was a very quick read and the second book which I have read by the Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal. It’s set just before the German invasion of Czechoslovakia and is about the life of Jan Ditie who is a young waiter who had previously had the job of selling frankfurters at a railway station. That work had been much more lucrative due to him having a scam involving not being able to give people their change until the train was just drawing out of the station. Of course he was never quite able to reach their outstretched hands as the train sped off.
He isn’t all that happy with his new career as a waiter at the Golden City of Prague restaurant and he fantasizes about saving enough money to be able to visit the nearby brothel.
Ditie is trained for the job by a head waiter who had once served the king of England and never tires of repeating the fact. Later in the book it’s Ditie who repeats a claim to fame – I served the Emperor of Ethiopia.
Eventually Ditie falls in love with Lise, a German gym teacher and moves to a town above the mountains of Decin which is described as being the first breeding station for National Socialists, better known as Nazis.
The regime is not happy about Lise, a good German, wanting to marry a small Czech man, especially when she has the pick of a town full of good Aryan SS men. But they are eventually allowed to get married and a son is born. It’s at this point that the story goes a bit peculiar because the child turns out to be mentally retarded and as a baby he spends his time banging nails into floors all day with a hammer!
When the Nazis are defeated things take a turn for the worse for Ditie too.
It was a bit strange in parts and I didn’t enjoy it as much as Closely Observed Trains, but it was fairly entertaining.