Bohumil Hrabal: The Betrayal of Mirrors
The birthday dawns with drizzling rain, but in the morning the sun already comes out at random. I return to Libeň, just like I did twenty years ago. On the corner of the house that I was looking for then, in place of the scrap heap, now stands a little column, and the murals on the outer walls of Palmovka subway station, built on the site of the house, have since been described by many authors.
“«Ya come to Libeň fer this? Fer Mr. Hrabal?» He swallows scratchily, in his parched mouth the saliva is milky gel. «I knew Mr. Hrabal, he loved beer. He paid for mine a lot, too.» Now it is sure that he wants money. «Ya speak Czech?» No, I nod reluctantly, I’d rather get rid of him, I am rummaging in my pocket, but I have no change, only banknotes, and we are poor people, too. «So ya don’t know what’s written here?», he points on the mural. No, not really. Tady stojím, čelo mám korunované deseti vráskami, tady stojím jako starý bernardýn a dívám se do veliké dálky, až do svého dĕtství… He eagerly starts to translate: «I stand here … crown of ten wrinkles on my forehead», he sweats over the effort. «I stand here, I look like … a St. Bernard … rescue dog … yeh, yeh, St. Bernard’s dog … I look far, very far, to when I was a child.» I’m pleased to recognize the text. I reach into my bag for a lukewarm Soproni beer, perhaps I will get rid of him with that, when I catch sight of the tears on his face. We catch each other’s eyes with Anna. We feel ashamed. «Thank you, Hungarians, that you came. To see Mr. Hrabal, my friend.» I feel obliged to shake his outstretched grimy hand.”
Mátyás Falvai: „hrabal_wall.jpg” Új Könyvpiac, September 2012
On this today, on the birthday anniversary, there is no event in Libeň, only the schools are celebrating Hrabal Day. On Monday night there will be a commemorative evening in the alternative theater of Libeň, and an exhibition entitled “Closely Observed Hrabal” will be opened, I will report on both of them. As a private remembrance, I sit in the “U Horkých Beer Sanatorium”, the last surviving house of the Jewish quarter of Libeň, the terminus of Hrabal’s famous Grand Slalom. I ask the experienced waitress, which was the favorite haunt of Hrabal, to publish from there this post.