All My Cats by Bohumil Hrabal
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All My Cats by Bohumil Hrabal

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Hardcover format.  Please read description - do not purchase if you are looking for just a cute cat book!

Translated from the Czech by Paul Wilson.

In the autumn of 1965, flush with the unexpected success of his first published books, the Czech author Bohumil Hrabal bought a cottage in Kersko. From then until his death in 1997, he divided his time between Prague and his country retreat, where he wrote and tended to a community of feral cats. Over the years, Hrabal’s relationship to cats grew deeper and more complex, becoming a measure of the pressures, both private and public, that impinged on his life as a writer.

All My Cats, written in 1983 after a serious car accident, is a confessional memoir, the chronicle of an author who becomes overwhelmed. As he is driven to the brink of madness by the dilemmas created by his indulgent love for the animals, there are episodes of intense brutality as he controls the feline population. Yet in the end, All My Cats is a book about Hrabal’s relationship to nature, about the unlikely sources of redemption that come to him unbidden, like a gift from the cosmos—and about love.

Everything changes the moment one takes pity on a human being or a mouse cowering in a corner. All of a sudden, a different world appears before our eyes, both more terrifying and more beautiful. That’s what makes Hrabal’s stories and novels genuinely moving. And so was his end. He died in 1997 at the age of eighty-two, falling out of a hospital window in Prague while apparently reaching to feed some pigeons.
—Charles Simic, The New York Review of Books
Though tinged with sadness, it is a sweet, and often funny story. The writing is wonderfully vivid, particularly in the descriptions of animals and nature, and the artful translation elegantly captures the lightness of Hrabal’s prose. Ultimately, this is a book about what happens when life becomes unsustainable—when pressures and frustrations build, and we cannot find happiness, despite flickering moments of content. But it is also about cats, and what it is like to love them.
All My Cats is both a simple tale about a man and his many pets, and a powerful metaphor. It’s a book that forces us to reckon with the idea that to be human and to be alive is also to be guilty and to suffer for it. This is a book about what one does when existence becomes untenable, and how guilt—as it gnaws relentlessly through us—must be carried for a lifetime.
—Lucy Scholes Paris Review
In the end, Hrabal’s cats keep him alive… and Hrabal knows better than anyone that our animality is what makes us human.
The New Yorker, Becca Rothfeld