Analysis

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 399

The Good Soldier Švejk (a.k.a Schweik, Shveyk or Schwejk) is a satirical, dark comedy novel written by Czech writer, journalist, and humorist Jaroslav Hašek published in Czech in 1921 to 1923, and in English in 1930. The title is actually a shortened version of the original title, which is translated as The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk During the World War.

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The novel was supposed to have a total of six volumes, but Hašek managed to complete only three full volumes and wrote the beginning of the fourth one, as he passed away from heart failure, in 1923. The first volume was published in 1921, and it is titled Behind the Lines (V zázemí); the second one, At the Front (Na frontě), and the third one, The Glorious Licking (Slavný výprask) were published in 1922; and the fourth, unfinished volume, The Glorious Licking Continues (Pokračování slavného výprasku), was published in 1923.

The story follows a kind, goodhearted soldier named Josef Švejk, who is called back to the army to serve and fight in the First World War; however, he fails to reach the front line, as he gets involved in various absurd escapades. Because of his overly enthusiastic character, his eagerness to serve the Austrian Empire, and his somewhat naive nature, he is often considered an idiot. However, one can’t help but wonder if he’s truly an idiot, or is he incredibly clever? Essentially, Švejk is a person who is trying to survive in a complicated economy and navigate through a war. Some critics even argue that Hašek used Švejk’s character to metaphorically describe the socioeconomic and political state of Austro-Hungarian Czechia.

Even though the general focus is on Švejk, Hašek also manages to accurately describe the militaristic mentality, behavior and discipline, especially of the soldiers that participated in the First World War, and criticize the idea of war and national conflict in general. This is why many consider The Good Soldier Švejk an anti-war novel as well.

The novel was translated into more than fifty languages and has had numerous adaptations for film, television, radio, and theater. Švejk has also been used as a subject in various works of literature, art, music, and pop culture. The book received mainly positive reviews, but its cultural influence is mostly due to the its commercial success, rather than its critical evaluation.

Places Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 629

*Austro-Hungarian Empire

*Austro-Hungarian Empire. Central European empire ruled by the Habsburg Dynasty from 1867 to 1918 whose territory included the region that became Czechoslovakia, where much of the novel takes place. Although the novel is based on Haek’s experiences as a Czech conscripted to serve in the Austrian army, Austria-Hungary represents any corrupt and oppressive regime, a fact readily apparent to Germany’s Nazi regime, which banned this book in the 1930’s.

Anabasis

Anabasis. Term for a military advance. Not surprisingly, in the chapter titled “vejk’s Budéjovice Anabasis” the Good Soldier retreats from Ceské Bodévice, a town in southern Bohemia from which troops are deployed to the Russian front. Unlike Haek himself, who traveled without incident to Ceské Bodévice, then on to Kirilyhida in Hungary and finally to the front, vejk misses his train and sets off on foot to rejoin his regiment, traveling in the opposite direction. In Cecil Parrott’s English translation of this novel vejk’s “anabasis” is conveniently plotted on a map. However, what is important is not the towns and villages themselves, but the circular path of the journey, which replicates in physical terms the themes of circularity that form much of the novel’s structure. Just as vejk attempts to circumvent...

(The entire section contains 1282 words.)

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