A Bohemian Youth (Writings from an Unbound Europe) by Josef Hirsal

By Josef Hirsal

Winner of the 1998 PEN heart united states West Award for translation

Josef Hirsal's experimental novel is a Dada-like romp during the lifetime of a tender guy born right into a Bohemian peasant kinfolk. informed in 5 components, A Bohemian early life starts with a notice to the clever, strikes directly to the textual content, keeps with notes and with notes to the observe, and ends with a word at the notes to the notes.

More than simply a tongue-in-cheek parody of a literary memoir, A Bohemian adolescence is a glimpse of the 1st Czechoslovak Republic as noticeable during the eyes of a tender peasant from the provinces. Abounding in intimate details--the manners of a servant lady, the behavior of town gay, the sounds of well known track; the best way humans devour in wartime--Hirsal's novel is a wrenching and hilarious story of a tender man's emotional and sexual awakening.

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1. A town on the Hungarian side of Neusiedler Lake. It is known in Czech literature primarily for its brewery. Jaroslav Hasek mentions it in The Good Soldier Svejk (“The Hungarian breweries in Sopron and in Gross-Kanisza bought from my firm for their export beer, which they exported as far as Alexandria, an average of a thousand sacks of hops a year” [London: Penguin Books, 1974, p. 188]), as does Bohumil Hrabal in Dancing Lessonsfor the Advanced in Age (“so I switched from shoemaking to brew­ ing and trained as a maltster and set off on a tour of Hun­ gary, oh what a brewery they have in Sopron!

I found them strange, not to say repellent. The third was Sexual Hygiene for Married Couples, which my parents had acquired shortly after they were married. 3 Much later, in a song I heard from a drunken rookie by the name of Frantik Chmelik,4 I learned another taboo word for the female genitalia. The song went like this: “I’ve got a girl in Louny; I share her with my crony. 51 learned another word from a school­ mate named Milik Kocek,6who later became a police officer. ” I have never run across it since.

3. His abnormality made itself felt chiefly in bicycle rides through the countryside, when he talked or sang to himself. He had absolutely no interest in things sexual or erotic and remained a bachelor. He was good-natured and liked to give children rides on his bicycle. 4. After the death of Vaclav Antos, former Czech Le­ gionnaire in Italy and card shark. ) But Kozel had had earlier expe­ rience with the post: until 1927 my father s predecessor was a farmer by the name of Jires, and Kozel served as his deputy.

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