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Too Loud a Solitude (Czech: Příliš hlučná samota) is a short novel by Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal. Self-published in 1976 and officially in 1989 due to political censorship. It tells the story of an old man who works as a paper crusher in Prague, using his job to save and amass astounding numbers of rare and banned books; he is an obsessive collector of knowledge. The book was translated into English by Michael Henry Heim.

Too Loud a Solitude
First self-published edition
AuthorBohumil Hrabal
Original titlePříliš hlučná samota
TranslatorMichael Henry Heim
CountryCzech Republic
GenreGeneral Fiction – Political
PublisherHarcourt Brace (English)
Publication date
Published in English
Media typePrint

Plot summaryEdit

The entire story is narrated in the first person by the main character Hanta. Hanta is portrayed as a sort of recluse and hermit, albeit one with encyclopedic literary knowledge. Hanta uses metaphorical language and surreal descriptions, and much of the book is concerned with just his inner thoughts, as he recalls and meditates on the outlandish amounts of knowledge he has attained over the years. He brings up stories from his past and imagines the events of whimsical scenarios. He contemplates the messages of the vast numbers of intellectuals which he has studied. The novel is vibrant with symbolism. A simple but obscure plot is present, however.

"Because when I read, I don't really read; I pop a beautiful sentence into my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop ...."

"For thirty-five years now I've been in wastepaper, and it's my love story" says Hanta in the opening line of the book. He goes on to describe his methods for work, and for using his job to "save" incredible numbers of books for reading and storage in his home.

The main theme of Too Loud a Solitude is of the permanence and intangibility of ideas which may, for a time, come to manifest themselves beautifully in the form of books and words. Another theme involves the conflict between Hanta's simple way of life and that of the new and ambitious socialist order.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptationsEdit

A live action film adaptation was released in the Czech Republic in 1996,[1] one year before Hrabal's death.

In 2007 a stop-motion film was released, directed by Genevieve Anderson and starring Paul Giamatti in the role of Hanta.[2]


  • Hrabal's original name for the narrator was Adam, and there can be seen in the novel various parallels between Hanta and the biblical first man.
  • Hrabal penned Too Loud a Solitude late in life after a long bout with illness and forced temperance. He claimed that the book was what he had managed to live for.
  • After the novel's publication, Bohumil Hrabal suffered a fatal fall from the fifth floor of a hospital while feeding pigeons. Suicide from the fifth floor can be found in his stories and he wrote letters in which he admires certain people who had chosen that particular method to end their lives.

See alsoEdit


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