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The Good Soldier Svejk and His Fortunes in the World War (Twentieth Century Classics) Mass Market Paperback – 14 May 1990

4.9 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Mass Market Paperback, 14 May 1990
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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (14 May 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140182748
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140182743
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 357,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Jaroslav HaA ek (1883-1923) Besides this book, the writer wrote more than 2,000 short works, short stories, glosses, sketches, mostly under various pen-names. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Format: 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Don't be scared if you think the setting is outdated, the footnotes are excellent in explaining the context.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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Format: 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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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
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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