(Reviewed by JD Jung)
“I keep having the feeling that a good half of the human race got drunk in a kind of gigantic space where the air is all breathed out. The born fighters and brawlers started to fight in their drunken orgy, and they were helped along and encouraged by the drunken hypocrites. And all at once the fight spread like wild fire until it touched everyone. By now, thank God we have advanced far enough so that we can tell out friends from our enemies, but the drunkenness lasts, the guilt is still debatable and the harm done is beyond imagination.”
A Czech engineer in his late 40’s left Prague and went to Paris, leaving behind a wife and two daughters. While there, the Germans captured Paris and though he came to France for personal reasons, the Germans issued a warrant for his arrest. A French doctor took pity on him and hid him in his cellar for two years.
Stuck down in an unlocked prison, he had a lot of time to think, reminisce and most of all, regret. And the guilt and regrets were on so many levels.
We slowly learn his story as he writes a long letter to his wife explaining his past and feelings. There is so much more, though. In addition to unfulfilled love, he’s faced with issues of loyalty, purpose, and more concretely, a murder and insanity.
The Hideout was first published in the United States in 1945 and in Czechoslovakia 1946. It was just recently reissued by Pushkin Press this month.
This novella enforces the emotional aftermath of World War II. The story along with the delectable prose in the writing and translation grabbed me from the beginning and didn’t let go.
Right when I thought that certain clarity would follow his states of confusion, another obstacle would be thrown in. If you’re looking for a tidy conclusion, you’ll be disappointed. But remember, life seldom works out that way.
The Hideout is an absorbing, emotionally-charged story. It is a must-read for those who enjoy reading about the imperfect human condition.