Pirouettes on a Postage Stamp
An Interview-Novel with Questions Asked and Answers Recorded by László Szigeti
Distributed for Karolinum Press, Charles University
Pirouettes on a Postage Stamp carried Hrabal’s experimentation to the field of autobiography. On its surface a verbatim record of an oral interview conducted by Hungarian journalist László Szigeti, the book confuses and confounds with false starts, digressions, and philosophical asides. Yet despite all the games and distractions, Hrabal’s personality shines through, compelling and unforgettable, making Pirouette on a Postage Stamp an unexpected treat for any lover of Czech literature.
“Pirouettes on a Postage Stamp marks a kind of transition from scholarship to belles-lettres: it is a book length interview of Bohumil Hrabal (1914-97) by a Hungarian admirer, the journalist László Szigeti…. That Szigeti plays a passive role does little harm: Hrabal is perfectly capable of taking the ball and running with it. Indeed, the Hrabal he gives us is more the garrulous Hrabalesque narrator than the actual, private Hrabal…. Hrabal was an autodidact when it came to literature and philosophy, but…he took his Rabelais, Baudelaire and Dostoyevsky, his Socrates, Tertullian, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Jaspers and Lukács (to say nothing of Lao Tsu) seriously, and the comments he makes on them here remind me of the extended, highly sophisticated commentaries I heard him make during the two days I once spent in his house in Kersko. The narrators’ philosophical riffs are distillations not distortions of their masters’ voices, resting as they do on Hrabal’s solid knowledge of the sources.”
“It is soccer that is the origin of the title of the book, which refers to (soccer) dribbling on a handkerchief, that is, an impressive physical, and by extension artistic, feat performed within a small area of space. One sees how this can also refer to Hrabal’s proclaimed literary aesthetic, Total Realism: the art of conjuring up a whole world on a single square meter of space…. As in his novels and short stories, Hrabal’s chameleonic style here is on display. The cast of his hovor ambles colloquially about, leaping from the demotic…to the profound…. The book is aswarm with sagacity and sententiae that simply beg to be posted on Facebook.”
Other Works by Hrabal