Saturday, August 16, 2008

Svejk Unrestrained

#35 -- "The Good Soldier Svejk" by Jaroslav Hasek

A bit later than planned, the first novel from Tibor Fischer's list of the great Eastern European books. Svejk is something of an institution in the Czech Republic now, and many pubs have cashed in on tourist schlubs like me by proudly displaying Josef Lada's iconic representation of the little fellow.

I actually read this some years ago, but the version I read previously was considerably bowdlerized and about one-third the length. This version clocks in at about 750 pages, and was intended to be much longer -- it was originally written as a serial, but Hasek died midway through, which puts a damper on anyone's writing career.

Its label of "classic" is pretty well justified -- yes, it's too long and too repetitive (he was getting paid by the word, after all), but it's hilarious and sly. Svejk, if you'd rather read it here than on Wikipedia or whatever, is a Czech soldier in the Austrian army during World War I, constantly causing trouble for his superiors by feigning (?) idiocy. There's been much said about how Svejk represents the Czech character by using subtlety rather than force to screw over those more powerful, but I wouldn't really know anything about that. It's really funny, though, and I'd recommend it as a bedside book -- there's no real long-lasting plot, just a series of adventures and gags, so just read it when you need something to fill the time.

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In the words of ICJ, the best thing in the history of things:

Thanks Ski Bum. For those who find a penguin inspecting troops and getting knighted sort of lacking without context, here's the full story of Nils Olav.

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Finally: Phreakmonkey doesn't post much, but when he does, it's really really cool. He's got photos of an abandoned winery in southern Atlanta up now.


KC said...

Thanks for the kind words!
- K.C. (aka phreakmonkey)

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