Book Notes: "The Good Soldier Švejk" by Jaroslav Hašek

The Good Soldier ŠvejkThe Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is quite a tome. It is really four books in one (view spoiler). This is my first reading of a Czech author. I understand that the Austro-Hungarian Empire was held back by the Russians and later the Italians, otherwise the Anglo-French and their allies may have been in some mighty trouble during the Great War. Švejk puts an interesting spin on the peoples and cultures of this part of the conflict and, as an ex-soldier, I couldn't help but chuckle at the timeless idiocies of the military life, and Švejk's nonchalant way of handling such banal annoyances as "greatcoats on, greatcoats off", making "lists of lists", and nonsensical statistics about serving soldiers. While the work is part comedy, it is also satirical. In my mind's eye the comical events were reinforced by the cartoon drawings of Švejk and his antics. These cartoon characters tended to dance in front of real war footage, so a Laurel and Hardy figure had me laughing with embarrassment while at the same time I felt like I shouldn't be laughing. The effect is brilliant. There are so many stories within stories, and Švejk reminds me of the many characters I crossed paths with during my time in the army. One constantly came to mind as I read The Good Soldier Švejk: a soldier who could recite word for word any Monty Python movie ever made. At times, you had to tell him to just shut up, but it was hard to dislike him. Švejk is this same person. Tragic comedy is how I would describe this work. Brilliant.

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