The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek (translated by Cecil Parrott)

PictureI’ve decided that I’m going to start posting book reviews every now and then on my blog, and as The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek was the book I finished reading just last night, I thought I’d make it the subject of today’s entry. I think this’ll be a particularly good choice due to the fact that it’s a kind of obscure book that some people may not have heard of and so hopefully this entry will encourage at least one person to read it!

Anyway, the book is set in Austria during the First World War and it follows the adventures of a man named Švejk. This isn’t just a typical war adventure book though, it’s the first anti-war novel ever written and is also a rather hilarious comedy. Švejk basically behaves in a very innocent, stupid kind of way and claims to be perfectly satisfied by everything. There are several instances, however, where it is suggested that Švejk is just behaving in this way to stop himself ever getting into trouble, but it’s never downright stated so it allows you to have your own interpretation of the character, which is a nice touch I think. Švejk is also a very likeable character; if you knew him in real life I’m sure you’d want to be his friend. There is also quite a cast of characters including Lukáš who could be seen as Švejk’s straight man and the relationship between the two of them is quite enjoyable to read about. But aside from being a comedy, the book also has its serious moments, which is important for any comedy in my opinion. There is a particularly sad little story in it about a cadet who plans to become a writer after the war, I won’t ruin it, and before you think “oh it’s a war novel, he probably dies” I’ll tell you now that he doesn’t.

But, like any book, there are still one or two problems. Unfortunately, Hašek died when the novel was unfinished, so there is no real ending to the story, it just ends abruptly. Though having said that, despite being incomplete, it is still incredibly long (752 pages to be precise) which may cause some people to lose interest, especially as there isn’t any real overall storyline and the book is mainly a sequence of events. Also I should probably mention that the book is really very gross at times,  I mean, it isn’t constant grossness, but it might put some light hearted people off of reading it.

Nonetheless, this is now one of my favourite books and so I’ll give it a rating of 9.2/10

(You can buy it here)

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