Jaroslav Hašek: Osudy Dobrého Vojáka švejka Za Svetové Války (The Good Soldier Schweik)
There is not much to say about this book, except that it is one of the comic and satirical masterpieces of 20th century literature and that Hašek’s creation of the character of Schweik/Svejk is one of the great literary creations. Svejk is not stupid – he is clearly educated – but he comes across as a bumbling fool, an idiot, not least because that is the image he wishes to convey. He kowtows to officers when facing them but his thinly disguised contempt is apparent to us. He is the exact opposite of the brave hero of much World War 1 literature. He talks about bravery but does everything he can to get out of serving, particularly of serving at the front. However, he is not a bad character. Indeed, he seems to be likeable, both to the other men and to many of the officers. Above all, he tells us stories and wonderful, witty stories these are and it is these that make the book. Hašek is, above all, a wonderful teller of stories and while narrative is, frankly, not his strong point, his humour and his story-telling place him at the pinnacle of 20th century literature. Unless you have read these tales and Schweik/Švejk’s adventures, it is impossible to convey their strength.
First published by Adolf Synek in 1926
First published in English by Heinemann in 1930 (as The Good Soldier Schweik; by Heinemann in 1973 as The Good Soldier Svejk and His Fortunes in the World War; by First Books Library in 1997 as The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Svejk During the World War)
Translated by Paul Selver; later edition by Cecil Parrott