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THE ART OF WRITING LETTERS IN THE LAST TEXTS OF BOHUMIL HRABAL

M. Pilar
Friday 9 November 2018 by Libadmin2018

ABSTRACT

Bohumil Hrabal (1914-1997) is along with Jaroslav Hašek and Milan Kundera one of the greatest Czech writers of the 20th century; his works are translated into 27 foreign languages. In the period from 1989 to 1992, Hrabal wrote a series of fictional letters addressed to Dubenka (April Gifford), a visiting American student who became the muse of his later years. These half-imaginary letters were never sent to her, though their relationship was very close and even intimate. Therefore, it is necessary to ask a question if it is possible to understand these letters as a part of traditional epistolography. It cannot be forgotten that he was a highly educated and well-read author, and therefore it is not surprising that (in these texts which seem to be just another continuation of his endless stream of consciousness) genre features of the philosophical dialogue as it is known from ancient Greece, but also the method of inner monologue can be easily recognized here. In his last prosaic texts, Hrabal (who started his literary career as a poet partly inspired by Czech Poetism and Surrealism) used poetic imagination maybe even more than in his older short stories and novels. Czech literary criticism appreciates certain journalistic qualities of Letters to Dubenka (selected letters were translated to English as Total Fears and published in 1998) which is quite logical because they sensitively describe the political turmoil at the end of the totalitarian regime and the brief euphoria after the fall of the iron curtain. Anyway, these texts can be read from a different (not only political) point of view. At the same time, they are deeply personal and intimate, and for literary criticism in English speaking countries, they are not just a sample of high-quality artistic journalism, but perhaps very important synthesis of all Hrabal’s literary work.

Keywords: Bohumil Hrabal, The Letters to Dubenka, Total Fears, epistolography, artistic journalism


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