15 Mar 2021. by Essi Koskela. Our selection for book club this time was Too loud a solitude by Bohumil Hrabal, a mere 100 pages of quotable digression aimed to baffle the reader. This sentence from the book perhaps describes the best how Hrabal’s book should be read, “I pop a beautiful sentence into my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop, or I sip it like a liqueur until the thought dissolves in me like alcohol, infusing brain and heart and coursing on through the veins to the root of each blood vessel.”
Hanta has been compacting wastepaper for thirty-five years, as we were reminded multiple times throughout the book. The book is about Hanta’s rich inner life powered by alcohol and his compulsive salvage project to spare the written word from his profession. Most of us struggled through the wanderings of Hanta’s mind contrasted with his surroundings full of dirt and neglect. Albeit being difficult, the book certainly raised interesting discussion ranging from possible symbolism to Western fixation on sanitation.
Originally published underground in 1976 in Czechoslovakia, the book is from another time where the reality of life was hard to grasp from our point of view. That is, if the events that the book describes really happened after all, since we did not reach consensus on whether this was the case. However, after a year at home, we could all certainly relate to how ‘too loud a solitude’ feels like.