Culture & Society Czech Republic News

Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal’s holiday house to be turned into exhibition space


Prague, Czech Republic – The former holiday home of writer Bohumil Hrabal is expected to be bought by the Czech state and turned into an exhibition space, Radio Prague reported.

Hrabal’s summer house, located in Kersko just 30 kilometers east of Prague, was put on the market earlier this year for a value of almost 12 million Kc, with the Czech Ministry of Culture and the region of Central Bohemia soon expressing public interest in acquiring it.

The “chata” is currently owned by Hrabal’s former neighbours. The contract of the purchase could be signed as early as December, according to media reports.

This week, local authorities unveiled their plans for the minimalist countryside residence, hoping to turn it into an original exhibition space in honour of one of the Czech Republic’s most famous and beloved authors.

According to regional councilor for culture Vaclav Svenda, the “multi-functional building” would include facilities for visitors and a space for resident writers and translators, as well as rooms dedicated to “workshops, various trainings and lectures.”

“We don’t want to create a traditional exhibition,” explained Vaclav Vinduska, director of the Museum of Polabi. “We want it to serve as a reminder of the place where Hrabal wrote many of his works.”

Bohumil Hrabal bought the cottage in 1965, and regularly came there to rest, write, and take care of the horde of semi-wild cats he adopted as his own – an experience described in his short book “All my Cats”.

The overall area was also used as inspiration for “The Snowdrop Festival”, one of his major works later adapted by Jiri Menzel and filmed on site in Kersko with some of Hrabal’s neighbours.

Born in 1914 in Brno, Bohumil Hrabal is one of the most celebrated Czech writers of the 20th century. Many of his works – including Closely Watched Trains, The Snowdrop Festival, I Served the King of England or Too Loud a Solitude – rank among the most-read and popular Czech classics of all time.

Hrabal began his literary career in the late 1940’s mainly as a writer of poetry and short stories. Banned from publishing after the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, a number of his works nevertheless circulated in samizdat editions in clandestine and dissident circles. Later books were allowed to be published from the mid-1970’s, partly due to his lack of political engagement against the communist regime. He wasn’t, for instance, a signatory of the Charter 77.

Hrabal’s popularity at home and abroad is also closely linked to the success of his books’ film adaptations, including through his long-time collaboration with Oscar-winning Czech director Jiri Menzel who famously adapted some of Hrabal’s works on the big screen, such as Closely Watched Trains (1965) and I Served the King of England (1971).

He died in February 1997 after falling from the window of his fifth-floor room at the Bulovka Hospital in Prague, allegedly while trying to feed pigeons – although some believe he committed suicide.