The Czech antidote to Heller’s Catch22 (a wonderful but overpraised antiwar satire), this anarchistic (and openly misogynistic) classic is bolder, bawdier, barmier and another Bbouncing word than Heller’s similar book thing The premise here is that the balding and plump Švejk (or so he appears in the smileraising illustrations) pretends to be an idiot to “dodge the draft,” but his motivations are deeper and his brain power plumper—he remembers his officer’s orders verbatim and is able to parrot their barked orders back at them, riling his superiors simply by showing up their lamebrained hypocrisy at every opportunity The remarkable thing about this notalwayshilarious, but relentlessly entertaining book is that Hašek was an educated hobo who spent his time bumming the railroads, pulling this masterpiece out his pants while living a true ontheedge anarchist life The novel is punk slapstick The comedy here spins out into shows like Bilko, Dad’s Army, MASH (asterisks omitted) and so on—with nice and nasty satirical strafings and knifings for fans of that kind of thing Essential for all ages 3 and up. In The Good Soldier Švejk, celebrated Czech writer and anarchist Jaroslav Hašek combined dazzling wordplay and piercing satire in a hilariously subversive depiction of the futility of warGoodnatured and garrulous, Švejk becomes the Austrian army's most loyal Czech soldier when he is called up on the outbreak of World War Ialthough his bumbling attempts to get to the front serve only to prevent him from reaching it Playing cards and getting drunk, he uses all his cunning and genial subterfuge to deal with the police, clergy, and officers who chivy him toward battleCecil Parrott's vibrant translation conveys the brilliant irreverence of this classic about a hapless Everyman caught in a vast bureaucratic machine I've read The Good Soldier Švejk twice once when I was still adolescent and second time when I was already an adult I enjoyed it both times though quite differently.I believe it is one of the first examples of postmodern novels full of delicious black humour.I really don't know why those loonies get so angry when they're kept there You can crawl naked on the floor, howl like a jackal, rage and bite If anyone did this anywhere on the promenade people would be astonished, but there it's the most common or garden thing to do There's a freedom there which not even Socialists have ever dreamed of.This world of ours is a huge lunatic asylum and we all are patients. Probably the funniest book ever written about the first world war.This isn't really a novel,of a series of anecdotes linked together by a few characters and whose narrative drive grows weaker as the work progresses It was written in instalments and I have never heard tell that there was an overall plan for the book.Much of what happens and even bizarre stories like the editor who invented new animals to write about for a regular animal magazine are drawn from Hašek's own experiences.It was written after the war and after the author's experience as a Bolshevik Commissar, and so is looking back on the vanished world of the AustroHungarian Empire Probablyby the accident of the author's early, alcohol related death than by design, an ongoing joke is that the Czech soldiers spend their free time fighting Hungarian soldiers, teasing Polish troops and getting round bumbling German officers all of whom are, technically at least, mutually united in the service of His Imperial Majesty FranzJosef II Naturally since the story was written after the Empire had been broken up in to a number of countries, two of which in turn no longer exist, and for the explicit purpose of amusing the Czech reading public in order to earn money to spend on drink, national stereotypes as well as devotion and loyalty to the old empire are played for laughs.The earliest section featuring Svejk developing arthritis to avoid being called up as a reservist, photographed in his wheelchair cheering on the troops leaving for the front, a spell in a lunatic asylum, getting drafted and gambled away by a drunken field chaplain, then loosing himself on his way to join his regiment but succeeding in not being tried for desertion is possibly the funniest Although I have a grim appreciation of the cadet officer sent to a cholera hospital after having brought diarrhoea upon himself by scoffing all the chocolates he had been sent from home The cholera hospital being understood as a nobler alternative than the embarrassing truth which pretty much sums up the tone of the work a delight in the selfdefeating idiocy of the entire endeavour.There are at least two serious reasons for the English speaker to read this Firstly it is part of the war that wasn't the Western front The Western front so looms up in our historical imagination that the millions who also died and survived on the Eastern Front, on the Italian Front, fighting in the Ottoman Empire, in Africa and a few other places are easily forgotten and often overlooked Secondly it is a comic, not a tragic view of the war This is the other side of the war there were some people who felt like winners Citizens of new states that emerged out of the rubble of old empires, dusting off their shoulders and feeling relatively upbeat (at least for a few years) about their place in a new Europe. Review updated on 4/1/2016.A simple Czech person Svejk became a soldier in AustroHungarian Army in the beginning of World War I His way to become one was anything but straight: despite his wholehearted attempts to enlist the moment he heard about the war, he kept stumbling from one absurd situation into another ending up literally everywhere except for the Army When he finally gets there, evenridiculous situations keep happening to him thanks to the military life which defies common sense most of the time.This is a satirical book which manages to be a humor book as well The humor part is really great: the book was written almost one hundred years ago, and it is still funny; I laughed really hard while reading the book, and I think the scene where Svejk brings drunk chaplain home has got to be one of the funniest one in the literature.Now comes the satirical part: at the first glance it looks like Svejk is a complete idiot Actually I take it back: it would be an insult to the people with this mental deficiency to call him that; Svejk is way past this point Once you stop and think about what happens in the book, it turns out he actually always prevails over the huge and baroque bureaucratic machine of the military and civil life in prewar Central Europe His behavior can be considered a mockery of this machine: Svejk is a little guy caught in there, but he wins all the time: no matter how idiotic and bizarre his actions are, even bigger idiocy of bureaucracy makes him a winner.I read this book after my military service, it added to the fun in reading when I realized not much has changed in the military since World War I; the bureaucratic organization of the military is still there and most of the reasons we start modern wars are still the same.I also strongly suggest reading about the author of this book Jaroslav Hašek His life was anything but common Sadly he died before finishing the book, but the story has a feeling of being finished nonetheless It would probably not be an exaggeration to call this novel to be the best satire on the World War I. Humbly report, Sir, but I've been reading this book called The Good Soldier Švejk which I had not planned to read as part of my World War I project, but there you have it It's a satire of the stupidity of war, of governments and armies and regulations, of class struggles Of being a Czech, and nevertheless in the Austrian army To deal with the absurdity of it all, you need an antihero Which would be this guy:Švejk One buffoonerous episodefollows anotherand anotherYes, the drawings are in the book and add to the anarchy fun.People say this book has its roots in Don Quixote, but there's Shandian digressions, too, and, as a character, Švejk has plenty of Bartleby in him But he's funnier,complex, and wiser, much wiser, despite his protestations of idiocy It's obviously credited as spawning Catch22, and yes, it's an antiwar novel But when a few almostenlightened characters did a doubletake, a facial tic of wonder if the imbecile might just be putting them on, I thought of Chauncey Gardiner too.'Listen, Švejk, are you really God's prize oaf?''Humbly report, Sir,' Švejk answered solemnly, 'I am Ever since I was little I have had bad luck like that.'I was thinking of all these things, as I was almost done with the book, and the et ux and I decided to take a fivemile walk around a nearby lake The path follows a roadway, one mile of which was under repair, a widening project, what they call it, which had been in progress for six months and was days from completion We walked as far as the section under repair Years of parochial education have resulted in my following even the most pedantic of rules (and a good handful of the Ten Commandments, by the way), so I stopped us at the three big ROAD CLOSED signs However, there is something about a freshly paved roadway, with brightly painted yellow and white lines There was just some guardrail work being done We asked some of the worker bees whether we could continue on and they couldn't think why not, and we couldn't think why not either, this being America and all Can I have a little Woody Guthrie please!As I went walking I saw a sign there And on the sign it said No Trespassing But on the other side it didn't say nothing, That side was made for you and me.Thank you And it was indeed a beautiful ribbon of highway I tipped my cap to the workers, who tipped their caps back at me All was well.At about the halfway point through the 'construction area', a white pickup truck with a flashing yellow light on top came speeding up from behind us, screeching to a stop at our side What he said was, 'This is a NO TRESPASSING area!' but I think what he meant was Sir, you have rubbed the bloom off my virginity.To which the et ux offered, 'My husband said it was okay.'The officious man in the white pickup truck now knew which guilty party to glare at So, I offered, 'This reminds me of the time the et ux and I were driving back from Illinois and where the highway goes in a big circle around Indianapolis the speed limit went from 75 miles per hour to 55 miles per hour, with not enough warning, if you know what I mean So I got pulled over The local gendarme walked up to the car, identifying himself and explaining why he was compelled to stop me, only to be interrupted by the et ux, who leaned over to say, 'I told him to slow down!' My hands on the wheel, I waited for her to continue with 'but he never listens when he's drinking' but the hand of God must have stopped her.''You're a smartaleck,' said the white pickup truck.'Humbly report, that view has its supporters, but then there's those that vote for feebleminded But anyway, baszom az anyát, baszom az istenet, baszom a Kristus Máriát, baszom az astyádot, baszom a világot.''What's your name?''Švejk.''Shvayk?''No, Švejk Just like it's spelled.''You're not Shvayk.' (this from the et ux.)'Well, you can't walk here.'I decide to be quiet and let him figure this out The sign on his door says FOLINO CONSTRUCTION and not MCCANDLESS TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPARTMENT We are onehalf mile from where we came and onehalf mile from where we are going We do not have a helicopter The most ardent profiler could not perceive the two old people that we are as terrorists, nor is this new roadway likely on any Top 100 Infrastructure Thingies We'd Like to Blow Up List in Jihad Monthly So, here we were, waiting for the man Mr Folino thought enough of to let him have a spinning yellow light on top of his truck to figure this out As Švejk would say, he had a welldeveloped talent for observation when it's already too late and some unpleasantness has happened.We were let off with a warning.We walked through the construction zone, and about a milein silence Then the et ux said, 'You're writing a review, aren't you Mr Shvayk?''Why yes I am And it's Švejk.''That book with the cartoon on the cover?''Somewhat famous drawings by Josef Lada, but yes.''What's it about?''It's a satire, with a seeming bumbling idiot for a protagonist who goes on one misadventure after another, but with the clear purpose, if you read it correctly, of not getting anywhere near the front lines during World War I and getting himself killed.''A satire?''Yes A satire Which is tricky because the people who are spoofed in a satire are pretty much guaranteed not to see the humor in it It reminds me of the guy who would be making dinner and his wife would walk behind him making sure he closed all the drawers he opened so that crumbs wouldn't fall in Or would stand there when he returned from taking the garbage out or walk out of the bathroom and just stare at his hands until he got the point that he should wash his hands Or freeze in her tracks when she heard ice cubes drop into a glass fearing the end of the world or that maybe vodka would follow''That's not funny.' Švejk was explaining: You see, it's not so hard to get in somewhere Anyone can do that, but getting out again needs real military skill When a chap gets in somewhere, he has to know about everything that's going on around him, so as not to find himself in a jam suddenly what's called a catastrophe Humbly report, Sir. Read this book ages ago thanks to my Dad to whom I am eternally grateful Probably one of the best novels of the 20th century on war. Jaroslav Hašek was an anarchist and anarchy runs through The Good Soldier Švejk like a stick of rock It's antiwar, antiestablishment, antireligion and, some say, even funnier than Catch22 Apparently Joseph Heller based his hero Yossarian on Švejk I read Catch22 far too long ago to make a valid comparison Oh, and Bertholt Brecht declared it the greatest book of the twentieth century And, I can confirm, it really is quite something This Penguin Classics edition of The Good Soldier Švejk contains an informative introduction by Cecil Parrott which made me want to read a biography of Jaroslav Hašek Helpfully, Cecil Parrott has written one: The Bad Bohemian: A Life Of Jaroslav Hašek Creator Of The Good Soldier Švejk.Before starting I was little daunted by the book's heft It's 752 pages and that's not including the introduction However, I needn't have worried: it's highly readable, very addictive, full of wonderfully distinctive and pleasing cartoonlike illustrations, and I was regularly reading 50 pages at a time.The book opens with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand where Švejk, a Czech living in Prague, immediately realises the significance of the assassination despite some initial confusion about which Ferdinand has been killed…‘Which Ferdinand, Mrs Müller?’ asked Švejk, continuing to massage his knees ‘I know two Ferdinands One of them does jobs for Prusa the chemist, and one day he drank a bottle of hair oil by mistake; and then there’s Ferdinand Kokoska who goes round collecting manure They wouldn’t be any great loss, either of ‘em.’ ‘No, it’s the Archduke Ferdinand, the one from Konopiste, you know, the fat, pious one.’The Good Soldier Švejk is chock full of subversive humour and peppered with mad majorgenerals, harddrinking priests, lecherous officers, all of whom operate in an absurd, imperialist world Jaroslav Hašek combines amusing wordplay and piercing satire in this very funny depiction of the futility of war I suspect this book is also an accurate depiction of the moral bankruptcy of the AustroHungarian empire Švejk is a hapless, apparently guileless everyman who gets embroiled in the state’s bureaucratic machinery and yet, through his feigned stupidity, always manages to subvert those in authority to emerge unscathed whilst leaving chaos in his wake Peter Sellers would have made a perfect screen version of Švejk and, coincidentally, Sellers used quotes from Švejk in his film 'A Shot in the Dark’.Švejk is constantly reducing officers to despair with his homely analogies and rambling anecdotes, not least the long suffering Lieutenant Lukáš who develops something of a lovehate relationship with Švejk Švejk's idiocy however is, perhaps, his way of dealing with an insane world fighting an insane war It is all a ploy By constantly becoming embroiled in tine consuming investigations about his conduct, so his arrival at the front line is further delayed He is also a prankster whose genius is that he subverts the authoritarian world as much for its own sake as for any other reason His humour and apparent imbecility rendering him indestructible No wonder he's such an enduring character Josef Lada’s illustrations are one of the many delights of this book Josef Lada (18871957) was a Czech painter and writer, however he is best known for illustrating this book His cartoons are very simple but add another level of enjoyment to the book He really captures the essence of Švejk’s simple charm and also the selfimportance of some of thesenior officers Click here to view some examples.Jaroslav Hašek died having completed four of the six proposed books, which had he lived to finish it would have made this tome even heftier, and therein lies my only criticism, due to its episodic structure The Good Soldier Švejk can occasionally be too rambling and repetitive however, read on a few pages, and there's another amusing scene to enjoy.This is an account of World War One far removed from heroism and honour, and which focuseson idiotic, patriotic officers, drunk priests, skiving, conniving, brutality, boozing, death and the harsh reality of a moribund, unpopular Empire for those trying to survive at the bottom of the heap The Good Soldier Švejk is a book which deserves to becelebrated and widely read (outside the Czech republic where it is considered a classic) Jaroslav Hašek humorously shines an illuminating light on the experience of ordinary people whilst seismic historical events negatively impact their lives and so consequently inspires justifiable suspicion of patriotism, bureaucratic careerism and authoritarianism All such nonsense is best mocked The Good Soldier Švejk's truths are perhapsrelevant than ever. So many composers have translated stories into music I was thinking that if this story could be translated into an operetta, or even a cabaret, it would become a medley of innocence, honesty, madness, brutality and a world happily going mad, while we, the audience, laugh ourselves to death, merrily tapping our feet to the rhythm of the orchestra.I had the same feeling and reaction when I read Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Berniers And then later on with 100yearold Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.The absurdity makes you laugh, while the situation makes you cringe To top it off, the story is based on true events, as related by the author after WWI The author introduced his main character in the preface as the hero of an epoch An ordinary modest unrecognized man in the streets of Prague, who didfor the war than men such as Napoleon His heroism even overshadowed Alexander The Great If you would ask his name, he would answer in simple and modest tone: I am Svejk.He was the talk of all citizens in the Kingdom of Bohemia when they were still under Austrian rule His glory will never pass away Svejk, the Czech, burst onto the scene when he decided to join the Austrian Hungarian Army But like acontemporary Mr Bean, he had the knack to turn any situation into something bizarrely, and often annoyingly, funny He will be called a prize lunatic, a thoroughpaced rascal, doubledyed blithering idiot, a prize ass, a thickheaded booby, lousy skunk, a blithering jackass, a ghastly idiot, a Godforsaken idiot, a freak of nature, a fatheaded lout, a devil of nuisance, a brainless booby, a degenerate He was officially diagnosed as feebleminded from his previous stint in the army, and developed arthritis in the meantime Yet, it did not hamper his desire to be a loyal soldier and report for service when the First World War broke out Svjek had the gift of the gab to talk himself into, and then out of trouble, with a vast trove of memories he used in confirming his goodnatured, kindness He had a touching air of gentleness with which he drove people to acts of cruelty or kindness against him But with his optimistic psyche firmly in place, he always experienced these acts as superb hospitality or professional conduct of some kind If historical fiction is your religion, and the genre's authors your sect, this unique book, 1st published in 1921, is a mustread Your faith might be woefully challenged by the sheer brilliance of combining comedy with tragedy to create this kind of satirical wonderwork or masterpiece Venturesome, boundarypushing elements elevate this book into the realm of classic excellence, which sadly, are often ignored and replaced by the mundane, the poor airborne nothingness, being pushed to the top by publishers This book is a once in a lifetime experience.It is indeed an early introduction to the literature of the postmodernism in which everything is questioned, ridiculed, protested In this case it is the futility of war, the almost blasphemous rebellion against religious hypocrisy, and the tragedy of an oversized bureaucracy Just about everything is made fun of It was a difficult read due to the brutality and cruelty portrayed in The Good Soldier Svjek For sensitive readers the metatheatrical irreverence with which religion is handled might be experienced as badtaste humor However, the cheerful irony, and sharp satire pulled me through I just realized how unique this book was Then an orderly arrived with a packet containing a communication to notify the Chaplain that on the next day the administration of extreme unction at the hospital would be attended by the Society of Genteel Ladies for the Religious Training of Soldiers This society consisted of hysterical old women and it supplied the soldiers in hospital with images of saints and tales about the Catholic warrior who dies for his Emperor On the cover of the book containing these tales was a coloured picture, representing a battlefield Corpses of men and horses, overturned munition wagons and cannon with the limber in the air, were scattered about on all sides On the horizon a village was burning and shrapnel was bursting, while in the foreground lay a dying soldier, with his leg torn off, and above him an angel descended with a wreath bearing this inscription on a piece of ribbon: This day thou shalt be with Me in paradise And the dying soldier smiled blissfully, as if they were bringing him ice cream It is certainly not a book for everyone, since it is also written in the literary idiom of the 1920s and requires patience to venture through But it is one of those gems, like The Story of Ebenezer Le Page by G.B Edwards, that demands a prominent position on the 'favorite' shelves for many readers.There's no novel structure to the tale It islike a combination of anecdotes, or events, being tied together by a few continuous characters, while others disappeared along the way The ending was blunt However, the overall idea and message in this epoch isimportant, and therefor no stars are lost RECOMMENDED. The first time I read this book, as a teenager, I could not see the point So I put it down without finishing it Now I see it as one of the great books The character of Svejk is straight out of folklore He is the foolish man who somehow kills the giant, gets the princess and claims the gold Except that here is no fairy tale, but a story of war and a story of bureaucrats and officialdom Specifically, we at first witness Svejk, a bumbling lower class oaf who has been recruited into the army, and who, in consequence, daily encounters a sequence of bumbling upper class oafs, his officers These latter individuals are running a totally disastrous war, the Great War for Civilization, which is destroying their own country of Austria Hungary Svejk, however, is not moderately stupid He is very very stupid Indeed, he is so very stupid that he somehow manages to keep himself out of trouble and out of danger Gradually, we wonder whether Svejk might actually be quite a clever man, who knows how to handle himself in the face of arbitrary power, bureaucracy and boneheaded idiocy Finally, because the war's stupidity is actually quite a serious matter, we make another discovery By an imperceptible transmogrification, Svejk ceases even to appear to the reader as a fool Instead, we discover him to be a quiet, intelligent hero, the model, indeed for the Czechoslovak hero who emerged from the old Empire to found a new society.