Always glad to read something new(ly translated) by Hrabal. Feels like the end of the line. The vignettes take place at an old people's home and the stories are about the losses of time and age. Sad but not only sad. Full of good humor and attentiveness to the ordinary. I have known a number of old folks pretty well and spent a certain amount of time visiting folks in retirement homes. This rang true (p. 146): "I can't help thinking that if war broke out, no one in the retirement home would notice, especially if it was time to get ready for lunch." And then follows a vivid description of the pensioners lining up for lunch and waiting for the doors to open. Perhaps unusual for a novel, there is a quite realistic telling of the condition of the narrator's older brother-in-law who is bed-ridden and helpless (much like my father last year), but it is combined with reminiscences of his life in ways that make it all ok. I loved the part on hunting wild mushrooms. Czechs love their mushrooms (p. 217): "...using the book Professor Smotlacha had written, we gathered [mushrooms], made a fire and braised and fried the mushrooms in butter, Francin added a Panther Cap and when the mushrooms were ready we let Uncle Pepin have the first taste, he thought it was delicious, then we waited half an hour and Francin asked, Pepin, are your ears ringing yet? And when he said he didn't hear any ringing, we helped ourselves and savored every bite." "Another time we had fried up a few slices of common earthball and after eating it our legs went numb, for three hours we couldn't walk, but then the feeling came back, from then on we avoided the common earthball, we only ever added it to spice up a batch of fried red-foot bolete and sulfur knight." No risk is too great to get some good mushrooms!
A great read for those contemplating old age.
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