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The Good Soldier Svejk Audio CD – Audiobook, 1 Sep 2008
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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
Top customer reviews
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.
The last translation of Svejk published by Penguin was translated by Paul Selver and had been abridged to such an extent that it was two-thirds the length of the Parrott version. Also, much of the coarse language of Hasek was removed altering the spirit of the novel. For instance, when the secret police agent arrests Palivec, in Selver's version he says,
'I've got you for saying that the flies left their trademark on the Emperor'.
Parrott's translation, truer to the original, reads;
' "But what am I going for?" moaned Palivec. Bretschneider smiled and said triumphantly: "Because you said the flies shitted on His Imperial Majesty." '
As Hasek says in his epilogue to part I; 'in these two volumes the soldiers and civilian population will go on talking and acting as they do in real life.'
Which, presumably, means including not only their swearing but their grammatical errors.
Concerning the problem with translation, the following is a paraphrase of Parrott's introduction. 'There is no authorised text to base a translation on. Hasek only saw the first and second editions of Svejk during his lifetime and their is no certainty that even these texts represent what he wrote or approved as only a part of the manuscript has been preserved. Hasek cared little about what he had written once he sent it off to the printer. There are two groups of texts, the texts published before the second world war and the texts published from the 50s onwards which were revised in orthography, grammar and syntax. (Parrott) drew on both groups of texts, chosing whichever version seemed clearer and more consistent. Svejk and many of the other characters in the book use what is called common Czech. This cannot adequately be rendered in English, since the only equivalent would be dialect or bad English. (Parrott) felt dialect would create the wrong atmosphere as any British dialect would be associated with people and conditions of a very different kind.
It is characteristic of Svejk's way of telling a story that he does not bother about syntax. This of course is an indication of his mentality and a part of his character, but it is also a reflection of the author's disregard of grammatical rules.'
As for lapses in the plot, the very nature of the novel is plotless, episodic, elliptical, meandering. Hasek was writing to make money and spun out the book to increase his earnings, digressing as he saw fit.
The Good Soldier Svejk is an anarchic masterpiece. And, if you're a literary train-spotter, compare it with Catch 22 and Slaughterhouse 5 to see where Heller and Vonnegut 'borrowed' from...