Josef Kroutvor is not only an accomplished arts scholar and insightful essayist, but also a powerful story-teller. He first met Bohumil Hrabal in person in the mid-sixties. By the end of the next decade they had begun to meet as friends on a regular basis. In this new book of texts on a Hrabalesque theme Kroutvor combines his multifaceted erudition with his close familiarity with Hrabal’s thought, feeling and temperament.
As an art theorist Kroutvor deals primarily with changes in style, and not just artistic and literary changes, but also changes in lifestyle and society. He is able to conjure up the atmosphere of various places and times, recognizing which artistic phenomena emerge from them directly and which are only derivatives of trends worldwide. Hence he highlights the fundamental importance of Hrabal’s bohemian Libeň circle (Boudník, Bouše, Bondy and Reegen), which operated for over a decade from the late 1940s as a covert hotbed of alternative culture.
“No literary theory adequately covers the short story. The story is a literary miracle, which either happens or it doesn’t. The plot must involve not only fate, but also something else: the period, not as a background, but as an essence,” writes Kroutvor regarding Hrabal’s work, although this might also be said regarding his own narrative on the subject of Hrabal. Out of all those who have tried to come close to the essence of the singular literary phenomenon that was Hrabal, he has in a certain sense been most successful.