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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The funniest book ever?, 11 Oct 2002
By 
MR GERRET LORENZEN (South Ockendon, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Good Soldier Svejk (Everyman's Library Classics) (Hardcover)
If I were born again, I would happily be Svejk.
On the face of it, this simpleton dog seller from Prague has nothing going for him. Even the dogs he sells are mongrels, made up to look like pedigrees (with fake certification, naturally).
As the story progresses, you find he is not only intelligent, but uses dumb ignorance to get his way. From almost starting a riot in Wenceslas Square, to being lost by his officer in a card game, to being captured by his own troops, the scrapes Hasek creates for his hero will make you laugh out loud.
Don't be scared if you think the setting is outdated, the footnotes are excellent in explaining the context. I guarantee you will recognise many of the characters in people you have met.
One word of warning though. Hasek died while writing this masterpiece. Literally in mid paragraph. Its frustrating, but makes you wonder, what if....
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The brutality of war is brought home in this hilarious tale., 26 July 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Good Soldier Svejk (Everyman's Library Classics) (Hardcover)
Svejk, a man who sells dogs for a living in Prague after being discharged from the army for stupidity is an instantly likeable character. His escapades throughout the war however depict a man able to very cleverly use his reputation for idiocy to avoid the frontline. Along the way he meets numerous characters which the author uses well to display his disdain for religion, royalty, the army, politicians and authority in general. This is a tale of the ordinary man and his ordinary acquaintances who happen to be unwilling participants in an horrific event in world history. The book is very long indeed and there is a section in the middle where nothing seems to happen and can be hard work. The book however pulls itself together as Svejk and his companions are herded towards the frontline and where Svejk's crowning glory is to be captured by his own army. Overall Svejk is the star and while his comical and often ludicrous stories frequently amount to nothing, they do give a feel for the lives of the average Czech at the time.
This book is well worth a go, you may give up on it as some people I know have but if your a fan of stories depicting the small man doing his best to resist against the big machine then you'll enjoy Svejk.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hasek is a master of parody and farce, 7 Oct 2000
By A Customer
THis is a piece of WW1 fiction with a differnce. It like the rest is portarying the nastiness of war. Yet Hasek does this in a fashion where he does not expose the horrors that undoubtedly occured,he merely shows the absurdity of war, the ridiculous nature of bureaucracy and for me reminicses about the sheer irony of life.
I think that in one sense this book can be compared to another great czech writer, Kafka in that it shows the individual up against this faceless system which seems to mercilessly persectute a person for being themselves. This theme is evident in both the writers works. However whist Kafka seems to dwell in a pit of self absorbtion and shivering paranoia Hasek laughs at it, shameless mocking the entire concept. The value of the book rests however on the pure enjoyment one gains from reading it, the smirking laughter it induces and the broad grins are in reality the sole reason to read this brilliant book.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars maybe the best novel of the 20th century, 21 Oct 2003
Svejk is not the sort of novel that would appeal to James Joyce, Virginia Woolf or Henry James fans. In many ways it completely disregards ellusive modernity, and deals with things that would have interested Rabelais and Aristophanes: food, drink and sex. Simultaneously its characters find themselves in the butchery of the First World War, and do all they can to get themselves out of it. Hasek is no Remark, and his protagonists are so adept at getting out of the front, that by the (incomplete) end of the book there has still been no actual fighting in it.
Just like Rabelais, Hasek successfully subverts any form of authority. Alhtough Hasek became a communist towards the end of his life, he remained at heart an out-and-out anarchist. Much of his venom is directed at the corrupt and decaying state of Austria-Hungary, but the most choice specimens of it are those reserved for the Church and for religion of all kinds.
Svejk himself is very like Hamlet in one important way: just as it is almost impossible to give a definite answer to whether Hamlet is mad or not, so it is impossible to give a definite answer to the main question surrounding Svejk: is he a patent imbecile or not? In another sense he is much bigger than Hamlet, since he takes over directly the structure of the work, and twists, chops and defines it accordingly. He always tells grotesque stories, supposedly to illustrate a moral of some kind, but these always seem to drift and swerve wildly away, and end up proving nothing at all or something totally different to his avowed aim. They impede the flow of the narrative so much, that by the end there is almost no narrative, just a morrass of subversions, each more hilarious than the one that preceded it.
It definitely is a prime contender for book of the past century.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humour in the time of war, 27 Aug 2001
By 
Humour in the time of war Jaroslav Hasek's 752-page (Penguin) unfinished work, The Good Soldier Svejk and his Fortunes in the World War is the one book which, to my mind, is the most hilarious of the century.
Much of the book is autobiographical, and a must-read companion to it is Hasek's autobiography. The background is World War I, which started with the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, nephew of the Austrian Emperor, Franz Joseph, at Sarajevo in Bosnia by a Serbian nationalist in 1914. Hasek's saga starts with this very incident, in the discussion of which at a bar Svejk makes statements like, "A shocking loss. You can't replace Ferdinand by any twopenny-halfpenny idiot. Only he ought to have been still fatter... Then of course he'd have had a stroke long ago, when he was chasing those old women at Konopiste when they were collecting firewood and picking mushrooms on his estate, and he wouldn't have had to die such a shameful death." For several other statements like these Svejk was hauled straight from the bar to a prison. The bar-tender was also taken in as he had said, "the flies shitted on His Imperial Majesty" (his photograph, really). Of such irreverence for authority is the book made up.
But Svejk doesn't remain long in prison, as he is found to be "a patent imbecile and idiot according to all the natural laws invented by the luminaries of psychiatry." So he is sent to a lunatic asylum where he declares to his interlocutors, "I was officially certified my military doctors as a patent idiot," and is promptly thrown out.
Svejk, who was carrying on an innocent business of painting up stray dogs and selling them off as pedigreed specimen, soon found himself drafted into the army. He goes for the draft in style, pushed in a wheelchair by his char woman as he is stricken with rheumatism. Svejk is very keen on going to the war as he says, "Except for my legs, I'm completely sound cannon-fodder."
Sorry, I'm going to refrain from quoting any more, for the entire book is quotable. The uniqueness of Svejk is that he debunks authority by the very act of accepting it. And, in a Catch-22esque way, he proves himself to be no fool merely by proclaiming himself to be one. While he is generally an amiable sort of person, when he sets his mind to it he can be ruthless, like in getting rid of his captain's creditor, dealing with a greedy batman or reducing a particularly disliked officer to speechlessness.
Some of the memorable characters in the book are Otto Katz, the drunk chaplain, who gambles away Svejk, his batman; the volunteer Marek, who is writing the regiment history in advance; the ever suffering Lieutenant Lukas who has a love-hate relationship with his batman, Svejk; and the sapper Vodicka, who considers Hungarians as "a pack of lousy bastards," who only deserve to be given a sock. The fights we have witnessed during recent times between Serbs, Bosnians, Czecs and Hungarians are echoes of the conflicts evinced in this early 20th Century novel when they were all part of the mighty Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The situations in the book are each funnier than the other. Like when Svejk loses his regiment and hopes to rejoin it by marching forward at all times, which the author calls an anabasis. In the process he takes a totally circuitous route, with many adventures on the way. Or the time when Svejk drinks up an entire bottle of illegal whisky at one go to prove to a spying officer that it was water, thus saving his lieutenant some embarrassment. Or when Svejk bungles up the delivery of a billet douce from Lt. Lukas to his ladylove, and lands up in jail. Then there are the innumerable asides - tales told by Svejk, Marek and others about their doings outside the war.
We owe much to Parrott for giving us this vibrant translation of Hasek's work. In his introduction, Parrott recognises the contribution of Max Brod (who had diagnosed the genius of the other Czechoslovakian literary giant, Franz Kafka) for putting Hasek in the forefront of 20th Century literature. Parrott quotes Brod as saying, "Hasek was a humorist of the highest calibre. A later age will perhaps put him on a level with Cervantes and Rabelais."
Almost 400 years after the picaresque writings of Rabelais (France) and Cervantes (Spain), comes this novel in a similar genre from the beleaguered Czech nation. Erich Maria Remarque's stark novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, is a serious indictment, not just of World War I but of all subsequent wars of this century. The Good Soldier Svejk, with all its humorous readability, decries the meaninglessness and wastefulness of war just as much.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beats Catch 22, any day, 21 Mar 2003
By 
MR GERRET LORENZEN (South Ockendon, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
For years I thought Catch 22 was the ultimate anti war novel. I even saw a lecture by Joseph Heller before he died. While I won't take away the brilliance of Hellers book, it pales into significance to Haseks.
Firstly, it takes a stance not usually taken by other writers. Wars are fought by soldiers, not nations. Svejk was one of those soldiers, and he was a) unwilling and b) not very good at it.
To that end, he spends his entire time winding up his superior officer ( Leuitentant Lukas, who, believe it or not, won Svejk in a game of cards), obstinately defying pompous officers ( the chapter where he drinks a bottle of schanps in front of Leutentant Dub is a classic), and generally being a pain in the backside.
All the time though, you get a feeling that this is an ordinary man, caught up in an insane set of events. That he has to fight is inevitable, but deep down, he remains the dog seller that inhabits U Celska, a seedy pub in Prague.
What he goes through is exactly the same as soldiers in WW1, WW2 or the latest conflict in Iraq.
The only down side of this book is that Hasek died in mid paragraph. It kind of throws you, but if you use a little imagination, you will make up your own conclusion to this story.
If you don't buy it on Amazon, buy it elsewhere. This book will truly enhance your life
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Soldier..., 23 Jan 2003
By 
L. Howard "Lee H" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
In these troubled and belligerent times of ours, the world could do with a great novel to make us laugh at the folly of war, and at the same time question the nature of allegiance. In the absence of a modern masterpiece of this kind, pick up a copy of The Good Soldier Svejk - although set in the first World War, very little, other than boundaries on maps, has changed. Or you can simply breeze over the politics and enjoy, in my eyes, the funniest book ever written containing one of literature's most memorable characters.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Schweik: A triumph of humanity over barbarity, 20 Nov 1999
By A Customer
Hasek's character Scweik carefully and purposefully goes about being himself in crazy slip-shod glory as the weight of the absurdity of conscription and imperial ambitions of an Empire collapse around him. A truly brilliant work of humanity and insight, not to mention slapstick infectious irreverant humour at the expense of all arrogant, bullying and self-important characters the hero comes across.
Not for the pompous.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chose between Schweik and Svejk., 29 Feb 2008
By 
Alan Kemp (London, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
One of my top three favourite books [with' Catch 22' and' Ulysses'], The Good Soldier Schweik is a treat every time. I wanted to point out the differences between the older translation by Paul Selver ['Schweik'], and the 1973 one [Svejk'] by Cecil Parrott. The Selver version is under 500 pages long and the Parrott over 700, and Parrott also has more of the wonderful Josef Lada illustrations [Penguin and Heinemann editions], but Selver lands the knockout blow by being funnier. His prose is fresh and lively where Parrott's is often stilted and cumbersome. Reading the two translations side-by-side is fascinating; how the small differences build to make one book good and the other one great. If you can be bothered, get both versions, but if you're only getting one, be sure it's the pre-1973 Selver!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless, humorous, wonderful, 6 Jan 2004
By 
Mr. D. N. Sumption (Sheffield, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
As someone who often has trouble with books not written in the last 30 years, I was a little daunted at the idea of reading a book written at the time of the First World War. I needn't have been - the humour, satire and sarcasm are of a kind that seem extremely modern. The book is a sheer joy to read, very easy going, and will have you splitting your sides with laughter. The only minus is that Hasek died before completing his novel, but this still doesn't stop it from being, without a doubt, one of the best books I have ever read.
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The Good Soldier Svejk (Everyman's Library Classics)
The Good Soldier Svejk (Everyman's Library Classics) by Jaroslav Hasek (Hardcover - 20 May 1993)
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