MJ Nicholls's Reviews > The Good Soldier Švejk

The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek
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it was amazing
bookshelves: novels, voluminous, penguin-classics, eastern-europe, picaresque

The Czech antidote to Heller’s Catch-22 (a wonderful but overpraised anti-war satire), this anarchistic (and openly misogynistic) classic is bolder, bawdier, barmier and another B-bouncing word than Heller’s similar book thing. The premise here is that the balding and plump Švejk (or so he appears in the smile-raising illustrations) pretends to be an idiot to “dodge the draft,” but his motivations are deeper and his brain power plumper—he remembers his officer’s orders verbatim and is able to parrot their barked orders back at them, riling his superiors simply by showing up their lamebrained hypocrisy at every opportunity. The remarkable thing about this not-always-hilarious, but relentlessly entertaining book is that Hašek was an educated hobo who spent his time bumming the railroads, pulling this masterpiece out his pants while living a true on-the-edge anarchist life. The novel is punk slapstick. The comedy here spins out into shows like Bilko, Dad’s Army, MASH (asterisks omitted) and so on—with nice and nasty satirical strafings and knifings for fans of that kind of thing. Essential for all ages 3 and up.
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Reading Progress

November 21, 2011 – Shelved
October 20, 2013 – Started Reading
October 21, 2013 –
page 131
17.42%
October 22, 2013 –
page 332
44.15% "“Don’t start again, Švejk, with that bullshit of yours, or something really will happen. In the end we’ll put a stop to your tricks once and for all. You have raised your idiocy to the degree of infinity until everything has burst catastrophically.”"
October 23, 2013 –
page 432
57.45%
October 24, 2013 –
page 682
90.69% "“Some people say for instance that when they eat chanterelles they come out of them whole just as they went in. You can wash them and cook them again in sour sauce, but with me it’s the opposite. I stuff myself so full with chanterelles that anyone else would burst, and when I go to the rears afterwards I just fart out a little yellow gruel like a baby. The rest gets lost inside me.”"
October 25, 2013 – Shelved as: novels
October 25, 2013 – Shelved as: voluminous
October 25, 2013 – Finished Reading
October 26, 2013 – Shelved as: penguin-classics
August 26, 2014 – Shelved as: eastern-europe
October 19, 2018 – Shelved as: picaresque

Comments Showing 1-23 of 23 (23 new)

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message 1: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook Super rev !


message 2: by Lee (new)

Lee Foust Been on my shelf for some years--this really makes me want to read it already. Thanks!


message 3: by MJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

MJ Nicholls Thanks chaps. Definitely an unskippable tome.


message 4: by Rod (new) - added it

Rod Lee wrote: "Been on my shelf for some years--this really makes me want to read it already. Thanks!"

Ditto. I guarantee you my three-year-old has no interest in reading it, though.


message 5: by MJ (last edited Oct 27, 2013 04:56PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

MJ Nicholls Rod wrote: "I guarantee you my three-year-old has no interest in reading it, though."

Alexei in an earlier comment said he read this to his kids. Good luck to 'em.


message 6: by Rod (new) - added it

Rod MJ wrote: "Rod wrote: "I guarantee you my three-year-old has no interest in reading it, though."

Alexei in an earlier comment said he read this to his kids. Good luck to 'em."


When she gets a little older, maybe, but for right now the little flibbertigibbet barely has the attention span for me to read an Elmo picture book to her. One book I'm actually looking forward to reading to her in a few years is The Princess Bride, just the parts where Goldman isn't gabbing about his frigid wife and fat son, so that's what, like 30 pages left?


message 7: by Yolande (new)

Yolande I loved Catch-22 because it was extremely funny to me. When I saw this I remembered Ford Maddox Ford also wrote a book called The Good Soldier. (His name always irritates me, Why two Fords dammit!!!)


message 8: by MJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

MJ Nicholls Hey, yer lucky it ain't Volkswagen Madox Volkswagen.


message 9: by Yolande (new)

Yolande Haha true!


message 10: by Forrest (new)

Forrest You're pushing me closer to it - great review!


message 11: by Lilo (new) - added it

Lilo I never read the book, but I saw the movie series made from this book; that is the one with Fritz Muliar. It was hilarious -- one of the best satiric movies I have ever seen. I also saw the first movie of the series with Heinz Ruehmann. It was utterly disappointing. (I forget if the Ruehmann movies were the remake or if the Muliar movies were.)

It might be worth to check out if there is an English version of the Muliar-movie-series.


message 12: by MJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

MJ Nicholls Thanks, Lilo + Forest. I will keep my eye out for the Fritz M movie series, see if I can hunt me some video on the web . . .


Razvan Zamfirescu Joseph Heller was inspired by this book to write Catch-22.
So, correctly would be: "The American antidote to Svejk...." - I think Hasek deserves, though, some respect for writing the first funny anti-war novel.


message 14: by MJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

MJ Nicholls Razvan wrote: "Hasek deserves, though, some respect for writing the first funny anti-war novel."

Eh? More respect than my glowing five-star review?


Razvan Zamfirescu MJ wrote:Eh? More respect than my glowing five-star review?"

He is before Heller. That is what I was talking about and I am sure you understand what I wanted to say.


message 16: by MJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

MJ Nicholls Razvan wrote: "That is what I was talking about and I am sure you understand what I wanted to say."

Yes. Of course that was apparent to me. Whether or not C-22 was published first makes no difference to me calling it the Czech antidote. Your annoying comment was merely unwanted pedantry for sake of it. But never mind. Let's not fight about this. We both agree this marvellous book deserves more readers and is bona fide classic, and is one of the funniest works ever written.


message 17: by Ray (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ray razvan is right - heller said that without svejk there would have been no catch 22


message 18: by Ryan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ryan Williams Quite.


message 19: by Gennady (new)

Gennady Kravenkov Reading through the comments proves me that there is a huge gap in cultural understanding of realities existed in the enormous old multinational European empire stitched together with the rotten threads under a brink on its extinction. If you understand all the controversy and legacy of this very colorful ball of historical thread, you will realize that The Good Soldier Švejk is a lot more funny and deeper book than Catch 22. I am not saying that this is bad or good but what Hašek is describing in his work is so different from the realities of life and traditions existing in America that it would be really hard for most Americans to see all those tiny bits and pieces of Hašek's sarcasm that makes this book one the best satiric novels ever written.


message 20: by Glenn (new) - added it

Glenn Russell Too bad Jaroslav Hašek didn't live to write part 5 and 6 as he planned. Perhaps an author with an extraordinary facility for wordplay and satire could take up the challenge and continue the saga for another 300 pages.


message 21: by MJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

MJ Nicholls Glenn wrote: "Perhaps an author with an extraordinary facility for wordplay and satire could take up the challenge and continue the saga for another 300 pages. "

You listening, Alex Theroux?


message 22: by Glenn (new) - added it

Glenn Russell MJ wrote: "Glenn wrote: "Perhaps an author with an extraordinary facility for wordplay and satire could take up the challenge and continue the saga for another 300 pages. "

You listening, Alex Theroux?"


Good choice! I wish I had a fraction of the talent needed to continue to write Hašek's satire but I just did post a review of this classic you might want to check out at some point.


Anthony It’s an antidote to war, not Heller. And Heller is not an antidote to Hasek. Brilliantly funny subversive novel.


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