THE GOOD SOLDIER ŠVEJK
The Good Soldier Švejk, written shortly after the First World War, is one of the great anti-war satires – and one of the funniest books of the 20th (or any) century. In creating his eponymous hero, Jaroslav Hašek produced an unforgettable character who charms and infuriates and bamboozles his way through the conflagration that tore through the heart of Europe, upending empires and changing social history. It is the closing period of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The assassination at Sarajevo has just occurred and armies are on the march. Švejk, a seller of dogs of dubious provenance, ends up in gaol (the first of a number of such occasions) and then in a Czech battalion in the Austrian army. He becomes batman to a chaplain (who likes the bottle), and batman to Lieutenant Lukas, who is swiftly driven to despair; he causes havoc wherever he goes (inexplicably ending up being sentenced to death while wearing a Russian uniform); yet never losing an opportunity to tell a story, an anecdote, a history, present an explanation: “ Humbly to report, Sir…” And the war rumbles on, with hints of the hideousness and slaughter emerging, sometimes all the more vivid because they appear almost between the lines. Jaroslav Hašek, was, like his subject, often on the sidelines of society – an anarchist, a communist, a vagrant, a humourist and writer; women and the bottle and sleight of hand all played a part in his life, and he died at the early age of 39 in penury and obscurity. His masterwork was left unfinished – appropriately, in a curious way, because of its episodic and wayward nature. Not that it matters! In this masterly and very funny reading, David Horovitch brings Švejk and his companions and compatriots to life, balancing subtle satire with out and out slapstick as we encounter Czechs, Hungarians, Russians, Italians and more from this pot-pourri of people and events. The Good Soldier Švejk is presented in the outstanding translation by Cecil Parrott. And the book closes with Parrott’s own absorbing account of Hašek’s life and writings, and the background to Švejk. It is read by Martyn Swain. It is called ‘Introduction’, and Hašek (and Švejk) would have approved of the fact that it comes at the end! Also included with this recording is a downloadable pdf containing all the main cartoons drawn by Josef Lada which have become an integral part of the enjoyment of the novel throughout the world.
Available on audible: audible.co.uk, audible.com, audible.de, audible.fr, audible.com.au: : £44 or on subscription.