Closely Observed Trains by Bohumil Hrabal

My husband recommended that I read this book recently and I must admit that it quickly jumped to the top of my book queue, simply because it is a very slim volume at just 91 pages. The temptation to tick it off quickly was just too much for me.

It is set in 1945 and the 18 year old Milos Hrma is an apprentice on the State Railway. He is finding life difficult to cope with and has already attempted suicide by slashing his wrists. He was driven to such despair when his first attempt at sex was a flop and he is now obsessed with proving himself to be a real man.

The closely observed trains are German ones and they have to be kept punctual otherwise the railway workers will have to answer to the Gestapo.

I know it doesn’t seem like it, but this is quite a funny book in parts and Milos is such a likeable character, you really want things to work out for him.

This was my first foray into Czech literature and I’ll be reading more, whenever I can find some.

4 thoughts on “Closely Observed Trains by Bohumil Hrabal

  1. I think this was the basis for an Oscar-winning film, Closely Watched Trains. . . I didn’t know it was originally a book! Now I’ll have to check for both of them at my library. Thanks for the review.

  2. I loved this book. You are right, it is very funny in parts which is good since it is so very sad in others. You might want to try his Too Loud a Solitude, I liked it even more!

    • The only other book of his which I have is – I Served the King of England, but I haven’t got around to reading it yet. I’ll definitely get Too Loud a Solitude. Thanks for the tip!

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