cover image The Book of Hrabal

The Book of Hrabal

Peter Esterhazy / Author, Judith Sollosy / Translator Northwes

Politics may make strange bedfellows, but those pairings pale beside the cast assembled here by Hungarian author Esterhazy. The odd roster includes a Hungarian writer (a nameless scribe who was ``supposed to write about [the real Czech writer Bohumil] Hrabal''); his wife, Anna, who has an ongoing internal conversation with Hrabal; their unborn child, whom Anna wants to abort; their live children (who play minor roles); two angels disguised as secret policemen, who watch the house and whose mission is to prevent the abortion; and-last but hardly least-God himself, who instructs the angels, takes saxophone lessons from Charlie Parker, ponders philosophy and bickers with his nagging mother. Given this uncommon assemblage, it is perhaps not surprising that the resultant work proves often confusing-in large part because Esterhazy shifts perspective at will and without warning. Still, flashes of wit and tongue-in-cheek aphorisms frequently enliven the convoluted proceedings. Though this discursive yarn will not strike all readers' fancies, those with a fondness for mittel-European whimsy may well be charmed. (Nov.)