- Birthday, Books, Quotes, Reading, Writing

Bohumil Hrabal on Writing, Poetry, Reading, Books, and More.

 

Happy birthday, Bohumil Hrabal! Here are some quotes from his writing:

 

“Writing is a defense against boredom, but it’s also a cure for melancholy.”

 

“[T]he most beautiful thing about literature is that actually no one has to write.”

 

“So it’s almost to the rhythm of my lungs and a blacksmith’s bellows that I galvanize myself and calm myself rhythmically so the act of my writing works with the motion of a grand drama, like the workings of the four seasons. . .”

 

“Now that through the act of writing I have achieved the acme of emptiness, I hope I shall be treated to some means by which finally to learn in my mother tongue, through the act of writing, things about myself, and about the world, that I don’t yet know.”

 

“Sometimes I might wait an hour or more, but at other times I wrote so fast that the typewriter jammed and stuttered, so mighty was the stream of sentences. . . and that flow, that rate of flow of the sentences kept assuring me that ‘this is it’. . . And so I wrote for the sheer pleasure of writing, for that kind of euphoria in which, though sober, I showed signs of intoxication. . . And so I wrote according to the law of reflection, the reflection of my crazy existence. . .”

 

“[R]eal poetry must hurt, as if you’d forgotten you wrapped a razor blade in your handkerchief and you blow your nose…”

 

“Not until we’re totally crushed do we show what we are made of.”

 

“The closest one person can get to another is through silence.”

 

“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 can be by myself because I’m never lonely; I’m simply alone, living in my heavily populated solitude, a harum-scarum of infinity and eternity, and Infinity and Eternity seem to take a liking to the likes of me.”

 

“[N]o book worth its salt is meant to put you to sleep, it’s meant to make you jump out of your bed in your underwear and run and beat the author’s brains out […]”

 

“Lost in my dreams, I somehow cross at the traffic signals, bumping into street lamps or people, yet moving onward, exuding fumes of beer and grime, yet smiling, because my briefcase is full of books and that very night I expect them to tell me things about myself I don’t know.”

 

“I always loved twilight: it was the only time of day I had the feeling that something important could happen. All things were more beautiful bathed in twilight, all streets, all squares, and all the people walking through them; I even had the feeling that I was a handsome young man, and I liked looking at myself in the mirror, watching myself in the shop windows as I strode along, and even when I touched my face, I felt no wrinkles at my mouth or forehead.”

 

“When I start reading I’m somewhere completely different, I’m in the text, it’s amazing, I have to admit I’ve been dreaming, dreaming in a land of great beauty, I’ve been in the very heart of truth. Ten times a day, every day, I wonder at having wandered so far, and then, alienated from myself, a stranger to myself, I go home, walking the streets silently and in deep meditation, passing trams and cars and pedestrians in a cloud of books, the books I found that day and am carrying home in my briefcase.”

 

“If a book has anything to say, it burns with a quiet laugh, because any book worth its salt points up and out of itself.”

 

“So I walk home like a burning house, like a burning stable, the light of life pouring out of the fire, fire pouring out of the dying wood, hostile sorrow lingering under the ashes.”

 

John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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