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Short novel (98p) by Czech author Bohumil Hrabal translated to English by Michael Heim. Written in 1976, it was the first non-samizdat story since Hrabal was banned in 1968. It is a wonderful story about a man named Hanta who has been compacting waste paper for thirty-five years. He works in a dank, dark cellar and lives in a small apartment filled ceiling high with the books he has rescued from the waste.

Despite the oppression of the police state and the encroachment of technology on his life, Hanta finds tremendous joy in the books he reads and the people who come in and out of his every day, monotonous life. The novel is insightful, tragic, humorous and holds the meaning of life for each reader. It penetrates the ideals of religion and love through the eyes of this melancholy, lonesome man.

I pick the book up whenever I'm in one of the chain book stores, and order it if it isn't there. I search used book stores frantically for this book. When I get it in my hands I rub the covers with my fingertips and open to any page. Then I read. I feel Hrabal, I know him in my heart. He wrote for me this book and his words and all the hurt they hold of Mr. Hrabal. I cherish these words.

Milan Kundera said of Hrabal, "Czechoslovakia's greatest living writer." NOTE: This was before the Velvet Revolution and before Hrabal died in 1997.

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