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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

In-House Weddings

Bohumil Hrabal

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To purchase In-House Weddings

Title: In-House Weddings
Author: Bohumil Hrabal
Genre: Novel
Written: 1987 (Eng. 2007)
Length: 171 pages
Original in: Czech
Availability: In-House Weddings - US
In-House Weddings - UK
In-House Weddings - Canada
in Les noces dans la maison - France
in Hochzeiten im Hause - Deutschland
Le nozze in casa - Italia
  • Czech title: Svatby v domě
  • Translated by Tony Liman
  • In-House Weddings is the first volume in Hrabal's autobiographical trilogy

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Our Assessment:

B+ : charming (auto)biographical fiction

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Die Zeit . 9/4/1994 Martin Lüdke

  From the Reviews:
  • "Hochzeiten im Hause darf also als (eine) Geschichte des tschechischen Kleinbürgertums gelesen werden, unter sozialistischen Vorzeichen. Es geht immer und überall darum, die „Nummer eins" zu werden, wenn schon nicht aufzusteigen, dann wenigstens auszusteigen. Die Lebensverhältnisse stehen jetzt zwar unter sozialistischen Vorzeichen, aber dahinter hat sich kaum etwas verändert." - Martin Lüdke, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       In-House Weddings is the first in a trilogy of (auto)biographical novels by Bohumil Hrabal, with the author taking an unusual approach of writing not in the first person but rather from the perspective of his wife, Eliška -- or Pipsi, as she is usually referred to here. In-House Weddings describes their courtship, leading up to their wedding, in the early years of communist Czechoslovakia after World War II, with this perspective allowing Hrabal to consider himself through the eyes of another, a portrait that is both flattering and critical. Presented in the original as a 'Dívčí románek' -- a sort of 'women's/girls' romance novel' -- Hrabal suggests it is a piece of simple, popular entertainment, but he does offer considerably more than that.
       Hrabal here is called the "doctor" (he had a law degree), and Pipsi first meets him when she visits the woman who had been her father's bookkeeper -- back in the good old days ... -- in the hopes of being able to register with her as being domiciled in Prague (her work, at a hotel, requiring a residency permit). The doctor lives in the same building, and while Liza and her husband won't help Pipsi out, there's some attraction between her and the doctor that might lead to something just as good ..... Pipsi came from a very well-to-do family, but after the war, and with the rise of the communist regime, they lost everything; she came to Prague following her fiancé, but he dumped her, leaving her despondent -- and also leaving her living with her would-have-been mother-in-law.
       Pipsi isn't entirely sure about the doctor: he drinks an awful lot and has some very close relationships with quite a few women -- and she hasn't forgotten her own disappointment (nor quite gotten over the guy). The doctor is both a rather carefree character as well as intensely focused -- especially on his writing. As they get to know each other Pipsi also describes their respective backgrounds, with both accepting their current lots -- "now the era's different" -- but also unable to let go of that nostalgia for the bygone Mitteleuropaean times, lamenting: "we're all actually children who've been expelled from these pavilions, these arbors, gazebos ...". But, as the doctor tells her when they get closer: "Whoever wants into our family ... has to learn to adapt" -- which goes for the situation as a whole, as they also must find a way to make do in the new Czech circumstances.
       The doctor writes a great deal but is rarely presented as a writer. He's done all sorts of odd jobs -- and mystifyingly has a law degree (he was a terrible student) -- but while he's driven to write here barely dares dream it might become his profession. Instead:

You see actually, now it occurs to me, my writing, my writing is also a guard against suicide, as if I run from myself in my writing, but at the same time I ask, what's to become of me ? The person I was before and who I am right now, the writing helps cure, the way confession cures Catholics, the way the Wailing Wall cures Jews, the way confessing doubts and secrets and worries to a mute old willow would cure our forbears [sic], and when all's said and done, the way relaxing and talking about whatever's on their mind cures Freud's patients ...
       And of his writing he says:
I never know what I've written, I'm always chasing some thought, there beyond my reach, I want to catch up to it, but it's always one step ahead of me
       This is even more evident in the next volume in the trilogy, Vita Nuova -- written: "in one long inhalation and exhalation" -- but also colors the prose here -- though it is also tempered by Pipsi's more traditional narrative approach, the novel distinctly episodic (even as it branches off tangentially along each way ...). It's not a straightforward novel of courtship and marriage -- as is already suggested by the title: the varieties of 'in-house weddings' presented here range from what sound like simple debauched revelry to actual unions-for-life (including, eventually, Pipsi and the doctor's).
       Cleverly presenting both his own and his wife's backgrounds, as well as their situations when they met and then became a couple, -- and with plenty of allusions to some of the works he would go one to write -- In-House Weddings is a charming piece of writerly (auto)biography and self-analysis. Amusing, intimate, and quite revealing, it is a fine novel of a specific time, and the necessary adjustments to get by in it.
       (Written in the mid-1980s, In-House Weddings was first published in samizdat and abroad; it is a bit too honest about conditions to have passed official muster.)

- M.A.Orthofer, 19 January 2011

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In-House Weddings: Reviews: Bohumil Hrabal: Other books by Bohumil Hrabal under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Czech author Bohumil Hrabal lived 1914 to 1997.

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© 2011-2021 the complete review

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