Milos has just returned to work as a signalman after three months off work recuperating from an attempt to take his own life. His impotence, the cause of his attempt, still weighs heavy on him. As does the laziness of his forefathers. He feels constantly watched. He worries the townspeople and travellers passing through his station in Czechoslovakia are whispering about him.
His station is strategically positioned and trains restocking the German front line or bringing the injured to field hospitals rumble through during the dying days of the 2nd world war. Some trains are “closely observed” and heavily guarded due to their cargo.
At 22 Milos worries he will remain a virgin forever. He doesn’t know how to resolve this. He doesn’t know how to rid himself of his ancestors’ reputations. And then, suddenly, opportunities present themselves and he acts with decisiveness and passion.
Bohumil Hrabal’s 1965 novel is slim at 96 pages. Symbolic references to an oppressive dictatorship, national and individual powerlessness and an unwelcome occupying force run through every page. Yet there is wry humour here, making it a pleasure to read.
Once I finished it, I realised it qualifies for Simon and Karen’s #1965club and having said I had no time to write a review, I found my commute to London this morning was better used to write this than trawl endlessly through Twitter 😉. And it’s forced me to write my first review since January. Winning all round. Head over to Simon’s or Karen’s blogs for more books from 1965 – there are some crackers.