The Good Soldier Svejk: And His Fortunes in the World War

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Penguin, 1990 - Fiction - 752 pages
4 Reviews
In The Good Soldier Svejk , celebrated Czech writer and anarchist Jaroslav Hasek combined dazzling wordplay and piercing satire in a hilariously subversive depiction of the futility of war. Good-natured and garrulous, Svejk becomes the Austrian armys most loyal Czech soldier when he is called up on the outbreak of World War Ialthough his bumbling attempts to get to the front serve only to prevent him from reaching it. Playing cards and getting drunk, he uses all his cunning and genial subterfuge to deal with the police, clergy, and officers who chivy him toward battle. Cecil Parrotts vibrant translation conveys the brilliant irreverence of this classic about a hapless Everyman caught in a vast bureaucratic machine. Brilliant . . . Perhaps the funniest novel ever written. George Monbiot

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Great read!!!!

User Review  - seiche -

Buy this classic book if you are going to the Czech Republic on vacation or if you have a Czech ancestry I do not by the way. This is part of the Czech history and literature treasures. Please do not ... Read full review

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The review written by S. Wreck regarding this Penguin Classics edition of the Cecil Parrott's translation seems to confirm what the author of the newest translation titled "The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk During the World War" wrote in the Jacket magazine in 2010:
I don’t know what his standing is in the eyes of modern theoreticians of translation, but the German writer Rudolf Pannwitz believed, as he wrote in his Die Krisis der europaischen Kultur (The Crisis of the European Culture) that “The basic error of the translator is that he preserves the state in which his own language happens to be instead of allowing his language to be powerfully affected by the foreign tongue. Particularly when translating from a language very remote from his own … ” Ms. Woods, [a reviewer of a later translation] conceded that “Cecil Parrott… deliberately anglicized the novel” which is the direction opposite to the course suggested by Rudolf Pannwitz. Indeed, Sir Cecil wrote in his Note On The Translation: “If the reader finds a certain monotony [as this reader did] in the words chosen by the translator I hope he will realize that the bandsman has to operate within the limits of his instrument.” The question is whether the common instrument of the English language is as limited as Sir Cecil’s personal instrument of his Czech or even his English.
Not being aware of Sir Cecil’s admission of “certain monotony” I expressed my own impression this way: “What is stunning is the poverty and one-dimensional lexical register of the translator’s mother tongue. The translation shows traces of two authors, an Englishman and a Czech. A Czech who, for example, chooses the wrong English equivalents, and an Englishman who does not know it. [The word “kůlna” is rendered as “barn” instead of “shed”, “háj” as “wood” instead of “grove”, “loupež” as “larceny” instead of “robbery”, “oslové” as “mules” instead of “asses”, etc.] In addition, the translation is made from an erroneous point of view.” On the point of his English, Jasper Parrott, Sir Cecil’s son recently wrote of his father’s labors: “He spent therefore many hours savouring and trying out all sorts of different vulgarities and even obscenities a curious occupation for someone who was otherwise highly disapproving of the lazy argot of the times.” Nevertheless, one indication that Sir Cecil ultimately failed in rendering the “lazy argot” is that the quintessential English term of abuse, “bastard” and the adjective “bloody” are used and misused in his version incredibly too often. In Part II, for example, he used the word “bastard” to render into English such varied words (my, sometimes multiple renditions in parentheses) as “chlap” (sonofagun, guy, man), “kluk” (boy), “podlci” (moral degenerates), “lotry” (crooks), “sběř” (pack of rabble) and “pahejl” (stumpfoot). Once he even substituted “bastard” for “he”, once added “bastards” after “Hungarian” and “bloody ass” in front of “such as Lieutenant Dub” just for good measure.


Švejk in a Transport of Russian Prisoners
Spiritual Consolation
Švejk back in his March Company

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About the author (1990)

Even though Jaroslav Hasek wrote a large number of short stories, his fame rests mainly on his satirical novel The Good Soldier Schweik (1920--23), in which he created the fat and cowardly dog-catcher-gone-to-war who personified Czech bitterness toward Austria in World War I. The humorous complications in which Schweik becomes involved derive from Hasek's own experience; his work as a journalist was interrupted by war and, like Schweik, he became a soldier. Eventually, he was taken prisoner by the Russians. Later he returned to Prague as a communist to work as a free-lance writer. At his death he had completed only four "Schweik" novels of a projected six. Martin Esslin has said, "Schweik is more than a mere character; he represents a basic human attitude. Schweik defeats the powers that be, the whole universe in its absurdity, not by opposing but by complying with them. . . In the end the stupidity of the authorities, the idiocy of the law are ruthlessly exposed." The character of Schweik made a tremendous impression on Bertolt Brecht, who transformed his name to use him afresh in the play Schweyk in the Second World War.

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