Bohumil Hrabal was one of the most important and admired Czech writers of the 20th century. He was born and raised in Brno in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1914. After working as a railway labourer, insurance agent, travelling salesman, manual labourer, paper-packer and stagehand, he published a collection of poetry that was quickly withdrawn by the communist regime. His best-known books include I Served the King of England, Closely Watched Trains (made into an Academy Award-winning film directed by Jiri Menzel) and Too Loud a Solitude. In 1997, he fell to his death from the fifth floor of a Prague hospital, apparently trying to feed the pigeons.
A stunningly revealing, occasionally deranged exploration of self, with cat ownership the frame through which that exploration is presented, by one of postwar Europe's greatest writers -- Kevin O'Rourke * Michigan Quarterly Review * A most sophisticated novelist, with a gusting humor and a hushed tenderness of detail -- Julian Barnes The very best writer -- Milan Kundera Hrabal was, for all his eccentricity, a major figure in 20th-century world literature -- Jonathan Coe Hrabal, to my mind, is one of the greatest European prose writers -- Philip Roth One of the great prose stylists of the 20th century; the scourge of state censors; the gregarious bar hound and lover of gossip, beer, cats and women -- Parul Sehgal