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4.0 out of 5 stars Good Soldier Švejk, 18 Aug 2010
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This review is from: The Good Soldier Svejk: And His Fortunes in the World War (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
The story of the good soldier Švejk's First World War. Garrulous and apparently good-natured his attempts to get to the front just seem to take him further away. Is he really an idiot as he is happy to admit, or cunning? His verbal detours can be as tortuous as his route to the trenches but are always entertaining. As well as Švejk, we meet the perpetually hungry giant Baloun and Lieutenant Lukas who is equally frustrated and amused by Švejk.

Hasek's satirical First World War novel was one of the inspirations quoted by Joseph Heller for Catch 22, and the similarities are never too far away in this readable translation. At 750 pages it is long, but the sort of book that it is easy to read for few a pages, put aside and return to at leisure. This edition includes Lada's original illustrations which are worth looking at for themselves and because they have come to define the way Švejk is visualised. The novel is unfinished, but doesn't matter it's not the tale but the way it is told that counts.

An antidote to the domination of the Western Front in our view of WWI, this novel highlights the racial tensions, bureaucracy and social divisions in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Švejk rightly proclaims that `a monarchy as idiotic as this ought not to exist at all', and the succession of pompous officers and officials he encounters prove him right.
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