Before I read this book, I have never heard of Bohumil Hrabal, the writer of “Closely Watched Trains.” After I read it, I did a little research on him, and I found out that he is one of the best Czech writers of the 20th century. He led a very interesting life, going through World War I and II and through the socialist Czech Republic, but it’s the weird way he died that stuck in people’s minds: he fell from the fifth story of a hospital, trying to feed pigeons.
Suicide is also one of the main characters in “Closely Watched Trains.” The story follows a young man, Miloš Hrma, a railroad apprentice, throughout his life. The story had several flashbacks into the main character’s past, that helps us, the readers, understand a bit more about him.
The issues he confronts with are common to all young man around the world: going through puberty, feeling the judgment of society, experiencing love for the first time, but, the decisions he makes, in the end, are surprising.
The book is written in a relaxed manner; it is easy to read and quite funny at times. Bohumil’s style has a graphic quality to it, at times too much for me. The description of the horrors of war on people and animals can be a little overwhelming at times.
All in all, it is a pleasant read, perfect for passing the time while riding a train.