I Served the King of England (New Directions Classic)

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New Directions Publishing, May 31, 2007 - Fiction - 256 pages
4 Reviews

In a comic masterpiece following the misadventures of a simple but hugely ambitious waiter in pre-World War II Prague, who rises to wealth only to lose everything with the onset of Communism, Bohumil Hrabal takes us on a tremendously funny and satirical trip through 20th-century Czechoslovakia.

First published in 1971 in a typewritten edition, then finally printed in book form in 1989, I Served the King of England is "an extraordinary and subtly tragicomic novel" (The New York Times), telling the tale of Ditie, a hugely ambitious but simple waiter in a deluxe Prague hotel in the years before World War II. Ditie is called upon to serve not the King of England, but Haile Selassie. It is one of the great moments in his life. Eventually, he falls in love with a Nazi woman athlete as the Germans are invading Czechoslovakia. After the war, through the sale of valuable stamps confiscated from the Jews, he reaches the heights of his ambition, building a hotel. He becomes a millionaire, but with the institution of communism, he loses everything and is sent to inspect mountain roads. Living in dreary circumstances, Ditie comes to terms with the inevitability of his death, and with his place in history.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - technodiabla - LibraryThing

What a glorious novel. Set in pre- to post-WW2, it tells the life story of a Czech busboy turned millionaire who loses everything (or does he?) The writing style changes as the man matures. The first ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Clurb - LibraryThing

A first-person account of working in Czechoslovakia's hotel industry around the war years, which was full of funny anecdotes but ambled and dragged its heels. I had to give up about three quarters of the way through in despair of reaching the end and having had nothing happen. Read full review


A Glass of Grenadine
Hotel Tichota
Served the King of England
Never Found the Head
Became a Millionaire

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About the author (2007)

Bohumil Hrabal (1914-1997) was born in Moravia and started writing poems under the influence of French surrealism. In the early 1950s he began to experiment with a stream-of-consciousness style, and eventually wrote such classics as I Served the King of England, Closely Watched Trains (made into an Academy Award-winning film directed by Jiri Menzel), The Death of Mr. Baltisberger, and Too Loud a Solitude. He fell to his death from the fifth floor of a Prague hospital, apparently trying to feed the pigeons.

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