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The Good Soldier vejk and his Fortunes in the World War Paperback – 28 Apr 2005
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From the Inside Flap
Introduction and translation by Cecil Parrott --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
The eponymous hero of The Good Soldier Svjek-the book for which the Czech writer Jaroslav Hasek will forever be remembered-has virtually come to define, since his creation in the aftermath of World War I, the spirit of comic endurance necessary to withstand the manglings of a modern-day bureaucratic war machine. Shrewd, affable, possessed of an unerring talent for finding himself in (and extricating himself from) the most fitfully chaotic and absurd situations, Svejk represents, in his instinct for survival, all those human values which stand opposed to the utter futility of warfare. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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Parrott's translation is rare indeed,because even the jokes survive.I believe this is the first more or less unexpurgated transaltion into English,and it is of a very high class.His depiction of army chaplins(Hasek detested religion)is truly hilarious.
There's so many good points to this book,it's silly to try to pick out highlights as it works as a totality,not a collection of episodes.
As well as a very funny novel,Hasek's work is often seen as an allegory of Czech and Czechslovak history in the 20th century.As Svejk survives the First World War,the Czechs have survived the Austro-Hungarian Empire,the 1st World War,independence,dismemberment and occupation after the 1938 Munich Conference,mass murder of Czech Jews and Roma,the impositon of Stalinism after 1948,the crushing of the Prague Spring,and self-inflicted dismemberment-the "Velvet Divorce" of 1993.As Svejk survives anything,so do the Czechs-no matter what history throws at them.
I'm not sure if any of the above mentioned authors were aware of this interconnected tangle of Central European shaggy dog stories written just after WWI, but it sure feels like the mother lode for modern satire.
The author, born in Bohemia in 1883, was an eccentric writer who took up journalism, drinking, and wandering. Think of him as a Don Quixote lost somewhere in the Austrio-Hungarian empire. During WWI he was captured and spent years in Russian prison camps which had to have been a terrible ordeal.
Hasek's piercing sense of the absurd must have helped him survive a mountain of hardship because he came out on the other side with this picaresque tale of a reluctant soldier who is either the most inept person on earth or the most brilliant person we've ever produced. Svejk confounds everyone he encounters. Through wits or lack thereof, he survives the perils of war and wrath of his commanders. The wry imbecile manages to float down a seemingly endless stream of hilarious and insightful parables no matter what fate throws at him.
Svejk is the wise fool, the schlemiel, the coyote trickster that probably graces every culture with insights and pokes in the eye. He lurches and stumbles from one fiasco to the next, always vexing and insulting his apoplectic superiors. He gets lost behind the front lines, skirts and endless chain of well-wrought disasters and always finds something to drink at the end of the day.
The collected edition isn't an easy read in that it's very long and a bit of a ramble. But it's worth it. In many ways, this is a book about everything. You can mine it for meaning and metaphor, or just be entertained. It's old world and worldly--a massive send up of humanity caught at our best and worst with all our fancies and foibles gently laid bare.
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