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I Served the King of England (New Directions Classic)

Customer Reviews:

The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of a Little Man

By Leonard Fleisig "Len" - July 3, 2004

Bohumil Hrabal's I Served the King of England is a beautiful, sparse, simply told story about a little man named Ditie. Ditie is a little man in the sense that he is small in stature. He is also little in the sense that he is merely a waiter, a little man who wanders blithely through the critical historical events that buffeted Czechoslovakia between 1935 and 1950 or so.

As the novel opens Ditie is a busboy at the Golden Prague Hotel. On his first day the hotel manager pulls him by the left ear to advise him to "remember, you don't see anything and you don't hear anything." The manager then pulls him by the right ear and tells him that he has "to see everything and hear everything." Ditie manages to learn how to accomplish this seemingly irreconcilable task.

Ditie is an ambitious man whose ambitions focus on acquiring two things: money and 'sensuous' experiences. His life is otherwise void of conscious thought or awareness. In many respects Hrabal portrays... read more

The essential Czech novel

By "the_drone" - June 26, 2001

I don't like words like 'masterpiece,' but there are books that I consider essential reading, books that allow you to connect to and unscramble the meaning of our troubled century. Bohumil Hrabal's I Served the King of England is one of those books and, in my humble opinion, it must be one of the great comic novels of the 20th century, along with The Good Soldier Schweik, The Tin Drum, The Master and Margarita and The Autumm of the Patriarch. It is like those comic novels, about the role of individuals in history, and like those novels, it sheds light on the meaning of life. Unlike those novels however, I Served the King of England has an almost minimalist plot, propelled by the ambition of the main character to become a millionaire. Hrabal does not uses modernist narrative techniques at all; instead his novel develops in a linear fashion as his main character moves from hotel to hotel as a waiter, furthering his ambition and learning from his bosses the art of running a hotel. In the... read more

WITTY, CHARMING AND INHERENTLY CZECH

By EriKa "E" - January 17, 2001

Sitting in a café in Prague with several Australians (who happened to be a part of a miserable bus tour of Europe I subjected myself to) and our Czech tour guide, who, out of the kindness of our heart, led us to an off-the-beaten path place where tourists were not as prevalent as in the rest of Prague, we discussed Czech literature, where he (I believe his name was Kaspar) definitively announced that Czech president Vaclav Havel is a miserably bad writer, Milan Kundera is brilliant but overrated nevertheless, and Americans are the most annoying people in the world because we call virtually complete strangers "friends" having only spoken with them for a matter of ten minutes, maybe about something as inane as weather. I asked him, "What is good to read then?" Which is when he told us about Bohumil Hrabal, and the most brilliant book he (Kaspar) had ever read, I Served the King of England. He tried to describe it, but found it impossible because it was too filled with highly... read more

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