Gina Ochsner’s second novel, The Hidden Letters of Velta B., is a captivating, tragicomic story about family and community relationships in a contemporary Latvian town. A dying mother, Inara, recalls her life and family history to her enormous-eared son, whose heightened sense of hearing allows him to hear both the living and the dead. Continue reading
This week I took a break from a novel-on-the-go to revisit Bohumil Hrabal‘s marvelous tragicomic novella Too Loud a Solitude. It is a bizarre, haunting, and beautiful little read about Hanta, a trash compactor who spends his days destroying books banned by a totalitarian regime—and savouring them along the way. I also recently discovered a short stop motion adaptation of the book, which can be viewed online (the picture on right is a film still).
If you haven’t read Hrabal’s fictional love letter to literature, I highly recommend slipping it onto that 2013 stack. Just try to read the following passage without being intrigued by Hanta’s rambling voice of “loud solitude”…
“Because when I read, I don’t really 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. In an average month I compact two tons of books, but to muster the strength for my godly labours I’ve drunk so much beer that I could fill an Olympic pool, an entire fish hatchery. Such wisdom as I have has come to me unwittingly, and I look on my brain as a mass of hydraulically compacted thoughts, a bale of ideas, and my head as a smooth, shiny Aladdin’s lamp. How much more beautiful it must have been in the days when the only place a thought could make its mark was the human brain and anybody wanting to squelch ideas had to compact heads, but even that wouldn’t have helped, because real thoughts come from outside and travel with us like the noodle soup we take to work; in other words, inquisitors burn books in vain. If a book has anything to say, it burns with a quiet laugh, because any book worth its salt points up and out of itself.”