Biblio-maniacal thoughts from Bohumil Hrabal’s Too Loud a Solitude

Pulpfest 2013 just ended, and as usual, I did  could not attend (Plane tickets alone would have cost me 1300$ or more).

Unable to be there, I was drowning my regrets in cheap drinks and costly books as usual. One of those books was Bohumil Hrabal‘s Too Loud a Solitude and on reading it I thought it had some pretty good descriptions of book collector’s mania (a mild version of which I have). I thought you might enjoy these.

For thirty-five years now I’ve been in wastepaper, and it’s my love story. For thirty-five years I’ve been compacting wastepaper and books, smearing myself with letters until I’ve come to look like my encyclopedias—and a good three tons of them I’ve compacted over the years. I am a jug filled with water both magic and plain; I have only to lean over and a stream of beautiful thoughts flows out of me. My education has been so unwitting I can’t quite tell which of my thoughts come from me and which from my books, but that’s how I’ve stayed attuned to myself and the world around me for the past thirty-five years. Because when I read, I don’t really read; I pop a beautiful sentence into my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop, or I sip it like a liqueur until the thought dissolves in me like alcohol, infusing brain and heart and coursing on through the veins to the root of each blood vessel.

I’ve been bringing home books every evening in my briefcase, and my two-floor Holešovice apartment is all books: what with the cellar and the shed long since packed and the kitchen, pantry, and even bathroom full, the only space free is a path to the window and stove. Even the bathroom has only room enough for me to sit down in: just above the toilet bowl, about five feet off the floor, I have a whole series of shelves, planks piled high to the ceiling, holding over a thousand pounds of books, and one careless roost, one careless rise, one brush with a shelf, and half a ton of books would come tumbling down on me, catching me with my pants down. And when there was no room for even a single addition, I pushed my twin beds together and rigged a kind of canopy of planks over them, ceiling high, for the two additional tons of books I’ve carried home over the years, and when I fall asleep I’ve got all those books weighing down on me like a two-ton nightmare. Sometimes, when I’m careless enough to turn in my sleep or call out or twitch, I am horrified to hear the books start to slide, because it would take little more than a raised knee or a shout to bring them all down like an avalanche, a cornucopia of rare books, and squash me like a flea.

Any other addicts want to speak out on this? If you want to get the book, go here:

1 comment

  1. Thanks for mentioning this book which I just ordered from amazon. I've had 4 bookcases collapse on me and so far I'm still alive but as I get older I realize the end is coming. What better way to die than to leave this world under your book collection?

    I'm just back from PulpFest and have a report on the convention. It's reported some non-collectors have fallen over shrieking so this report is for collectors only:

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