Julian Barnes

Oy-oy-oy! Czech Mate

Too Loud a Solitude

By Bohumil Hrabal (Translated by Michael Henry Heim)

André Deutsch 98pp £9.99 order from our bookshop

We have to be careful about foreign reality. Debutant British critics, keen to show the visas on their passports, like to overpraise the luxuriant imaginings of exotic writers while diminishing the scrubby, arid little fancyings of their UK counterparts. But the disparity is often not one of imagination at all. Here is Gabriel García Marquez, fed up with being routinely lauded for his magical qualities: ‘It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there’s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination.’

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