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Hašek, Jaroslav

army stories Švejk czech

(Czech, 1883–1923)

Born in Prague, Hašek gained a reputation as a satirist before being conscripted into the Austrian army in 1915. Captured by the Russians, he produced propaganda for the cause of Czechoslovakian independence from Austria. His sprawling comic masterpiece and only novel, The Good Soldier Švejk (four vols., 1921–3) draws on his wartime experiences in relentlessly satirizing the absurdities he saw in army life. Švejk hides his shrewdness beneath an appearance of stupidity to avoid the dangers and personal inconveniences of military service. The anti-authoritarian attitude that enables him to survive the war represents the spirit of Czech resistance to Austrian rule. Collections of Hašek's stories include The Red Commissar (1981) and Little Stories by a Great Master (1984), which further illustrate the keenness of his sense of the absurd in their treatments of bureaucratic improbabilities and political deviousness.

Joseph Heller, Eric Linklater, Franz Kafka. See WAR  DH

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