Corto's Reviews > The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Svejk During the World War, Book(s) Three & Four

The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Svejk During the W... by Jaroslav Hašek
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it was amazing

So.
I've finally finished the tale of "The Good Soldier Svejk".
In reviews of the first two books, I discussed how important the new translation is into deepening the reader's experience with the book - and that can't be understated, but I won't belabor it here. I wouldn't have finished Hašek's story had it not been for the Sadlon translation. His translation was illuminating, where Parrot's was not. Additionally, updating it into modern English, made it a significantly smoother read to boot.

In the final analysis, this book is alternately funny and wrenching - if you take the time to think about the things these men are going through, and what they're subjected to. While the story never makes it into frontline combat, there's still plenty here to chew on about a nation thrust into a war they don't have much of a genuine emotional stake in.

It was a fascinating look at Central Europe - and exposes an earthy, humorous culture - because "Svejk" is as much a story of the Czech people as it is about the titular character. (And, it's an incredibly rich tapestry of stories in here about the Czech people. In fact, tonight as I was driving home, I noticed a car in front of me with a bumper sticker that read, "Team Irish Literature", to which I muttered "Baby. You ain't got nothing on the Czechs.")

At times this book felt unnecessarily drawn out, but you have to take it in stride, because (from what I understand), it was written episodically. I don't think the author meant for it to have a tightly drawn plot. It's just the story of a man on his way to war. A funny story, mind you. There were moments where I laughed out loud, chuckled, and it became a running joke with my Wife and I, that I would start to explain Svejk's exploits and she would groan and roll her eyes, with much the same exasperation that the long suffering Senior Lieutenant Lukáš greeted every long-winded anecdote delivered at the drop of a hat by the great Private Svejk...God, I wish I had Svejk's ability to talk myself out of a jam...

Only now at the end, can I see where the comparison's to Catch-22 come from. "Svejk" is indeed about the absurdity of war, to the Nth degree.

I've been with this character for a few years now. I started the Parrot translation roughly 3 years ago, and crapped out 60% of the way through. Slowly though, I found myself picking the book up on occasion, to the point which I said, "I should really finish this." I stumbled on the Sadlon translation through his website which catalogs all sorts of Svejk ephemera from the current manifestations of Svejk's cultural legacy (how many literary characters have bronze statues dotting their country, and surrounding neighbors?), to intensive academic essays. I tried a sample of the new translation and was so stunned even by the difference in the meaning of the dialogue of the opening scene, I embarked on the story again from page 1.

Well. Adieu Svejk. I'd toast your passing with a good Czech beer, except you can't get any here. ("Budvar/Czechvar" doesn't travel well from Central Europe out here to the Rust Belt...) It's been a great ride, and I'll miss the image of his beatific face in my mind's eye. This is truly an epic novel, and if you enjoy war satire, I heartily recommend it.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
February 24, 2018 – Shelved
February 24, 2018 – Finished Reading

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