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It’s been a few years since I enjoyed the unique pleasure of Central European absurdity. Hašek certainly knew how to write in an absurd and funny way. In The Good Soldier Švejk we follow the strange, subtly anarchic and gentle protagonist Švejk
This quiet, unassuming, shabbily dressed man is indeed that heroic and valiant good old soldier Švejk.
When Švejk is in the garrison gaol there is a very funny mass held by a drunk converted Jewish man who according to one prisoner
He’s really well sozzled today. .. He must have got tight with some tarts somewhere.
Švejk is torn from his civilian life and becomes the batman of an army lieutenant Lukáš. They enjoy a love-hate relationship with many problems. Švejk makes many many asides and tells anecdotes every time somebody says something that sparks his memory. I admit that after halfway through the 752 page novel I stopped reading a lot of those anecdotes.
Švejk bungles his way through a series of scrapes including being captured by his own army and narrowly misses being executed for alleged treason. It was interesting that the Russian soldiers that he war imprisoned with were from all over the Russian empire and spoke myriad languages but none of them spoke Russian.
Hašek died before completing the novel so we will never know how he intended the book to finish. I learnt a lot about the first world war, the Austro-Hungarian empire and the interactions between Czech, Austrian and Hungarians at that time. It’s no wonder the Austro-Hungarian empire feel apart, it seems that it was very poorly administered with lots of corruption and that they were constantly at war. I doubt that this book would appeal to a wide audience.