Friday, August 22, 2014

The Good Soldier Švejk

The years 2014 to 2018 mark the 100th anniversary of WWI - the war to end all wars.  Out of the tragedy of the first world war comes one of the best books ever.

The Good Soldier Švejk, written by Jaroslav Hašek, was published in 1923.  The novel has been translated in to 58 languages making It is the most translated work of Czech literature.

Jaroslav Hašek
The original Czech title is Osudy dobrého vojáka Švejka za světové války, which translates to The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk During the World War.  Czech artist Josef Lada did the original illustrations.

It is a satirical, black comedy on the futility of war.  The author intended for the story to cover six volumes but he only completed the first three, and started the fourth, when he died in 1923.

Švejk illustration by Josef Lada
The story is about Švejk whose main goal in life is to avoid the greater foolishness around him.  It's hard to tell if Švejk is a complete idiot, a wise fool, or the smartest person around as he goes from one situation to another.

Švejk is a part of Czech culture.  Many towns will have a Švejk pub.  The Czech language even has a verb, švejkovat, meaning "to švejk". 

Here's a clip from the 1957 movie adaption that I found on YouTube.

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