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The Story of Bohumil Hrabal and Golden Tiger

on February 3, 2020

Bohumil Hrabal

I would like to tell you a story of Mr Hrabal. Bohumil Hrabal was what you might call a barfly. Dictionary says that barfly is a person who spends much time in bars – and boy, was it true for Hrabal. He invented a beer slalom with his friends zigzagging between favourite pubs and drank the amount of beer that would fill out a 50m swimming pool. But not many people would guess from his unobtrusive appearance that Hrabal was the most translated Czech author of 20th century. He wrote dozens of books published in as many as 28 languages. Bohumil had a habit of writing on the roof of his small Prague apartment to get sunshine which would be captured in the stories.

The Artist

One of his first breakthrough books was Closely Watched Trains. They made it into a film which later won the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 40th Academy Awards in 1968. No wonder Bohumil Hrabal found himself in the spotlight and people around Europe respected him as a leading intellectual figure. In fact, many celebrities wanted to meet Hrabal and feel the aura. However, glory caused him a lot of trouble as the secret police took interest and started bullying. They even followed Bohumil to the country cottage where he would hide in a haystack to avoid police. Many Czechoslovak artists shared similar faith in the sixties: some ended up in prison, because they were seen as a threat to the communist regime.

The Novels

Surprisingly enough, Hrabal created some of his best works at that time. As he once said, people are like olives, you get the best of them under pressure.  I Served the King of England is a novel that takes place in Prague in 1940s, during the Nazi occupation and early communism and follows a young man who aspires to be a millionaire. Too Loud a Solitude is a story of a paper crusher in Prague, who uses his job to save astounding numbers of rare and banned books and becomes an obsessive collector of knowledge.

Beer Drinker

After all that writing, Bohumil Hrabal liked to enjoy a beer or two. In fact, he loved beer passionately all his life. When he was a child, mother worked as an accountant at a local brewery in Nymburk. As the time went by, Bohumil moved to Prague and became a regular in quite a few pubs i.e.: U Šumavy, U Hynků, U Pinkasů, but the one he liked the most was U Zlatého tygra – Golden Tiger Pub.

Golden Tiger Pub

The reason for that is quite simple – you won’t find better tapped Pilsner beer anywhere else. Even though it’s near the touristic part of the old town – Husova Street – it’s a pub for locals who have favorite seats waiting for them like Hrabal used to have. There’s nothing eye-catching on the walls, nor the pub offers fancy spirits or whiskeys, and quite intentionally so. It takes aggression out of the place and turns all focus on one drink only – Pilsner. Bohumil Hrabal usually had up to eight “pieces” of this sunshine-filled lager. You can come round and taste for yourself what inspired him so much.

Outro

“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.”  (Bohumil Hrabal – Too Loud a Solitude)

by Christian Szabo | Jun 4, 2018 |