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Summary

The Good Soldier Švejk, written shortly after the First World War, is one of the great antiwar 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 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 parts 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 potpourri 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.

©2019 Jaroslav Hašek (P)2019 Ukemi Productions Ltd

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Dobrý voják Švejk

The Good Soldier Švejk is an unfinished satirical dark comedy novel by Czech writer Jaroslav Hašek, published in 1921–1923, about a good-humored, simple-minded middle-aged man who is enthusiastic to serve Austria-Hungary in World War I.

The book is also the most translated novel of Czech literature, having been translated into over 50 languages!

The Good Soldier Švejk is the abbreviated title, the original Czech title of the work is Osudy dobrého vojáka Švejka za světové války, literally The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk During the World War.

The novel is set during World War I in Austria-Hungary, a multi-ethnic empire full of long-standing ethnic tensions. Fifteen million people died in the war, one million of them Austro-Hungarian soldiers including around 140,000 who were Czechs. Jaroslav Hašek participated in this conflict and examined it in The Good Soldier Švejk.

Many of the situations and characters seem to have been inspired, at least in part, by Hašek's service in the 91st Infantry Regiment of the Austro-Hungarian Army. The novel also deals with broader anti-war themes: essentially a series of absurdly comic episodes, it explores the pointlessness and futility of conflict in general and of military discipline, Austrian military discipline in particular. Many of its characters, especially the Czechs, are participating in a conflict they do not understand on behalf of an empire to which they have no loyalty.

The character of Josef Švejk is a development of this theme. Through (possibly feigned) idiocy or incompetence he repeatedly manages to frustrate military authority and expose its stupidity in a form of passive resistance: the reader is left unclear, however, as to whether Švejk is genuinely incompetent, or acting quite deliberately with dumb insolence. These absurd events reach a climax when Švejk, wearing a Russian uniform, is mistakenly taken prisoner by his own side.

In addition to satirising Habsburg authority, Hašek repeatedly sets out corruption and hypocrisy attributed to priests of the Catholic Church.


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9 people found this helpful

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exceptional rendition of an excellent book

everytime l read, or relisten, there is so much to enjoy and to revel in that the story never tires. David Horovitch's reading and interpretation is magnificent ans makes for such an enjoyable read.

5 people found this helpful

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Outstanding Narration

I usually do not favour narration with explicitly different accents or voices for each character, but in this case it was not only fully justified but an actual triumph.

2 people found this helpful

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Simply wonderful!

I'd always wanted to read Hasek's classic novel, but never quite got around to it. This audio version, beautifully read by David Horovitch, proved to be a good alternative to getting the print version. Horovitch really brings the character to life. Svejk is a cross between Baldrick (of Blackadder Goes Fourth vintage) and Sgt. Bilko, a vulgar, funny, bumptious everyman who stumbles from one fix to another. But beneath the humour there is a serious point. Hasek, as the excellent introduction (sensibly placed at the end of the audio book) points out, was an opponent of the war and of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Consequently the novel is both a classic of European literary comedy and a fierce critique of war, religion, monarchy and the ruling class. I came away from this reading of it wanting to learn more about Hasek, and with a determination to one day tackle the print version, complete with Lada's illustrations. This book is glorious - get it!

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I would give David Horowitz ten stars of could

such a joy of a book, and David Horovitch brings it to magnificent life. imagine Dad's Army and Catch 22 (Joseph Heller was inspired by Svejk), set in the Czech/Russian front in WW1 and you are not far off. brilliantly absurd, pointed and imaginative.

Best audible book I've heard in ages

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Waste of a credit.

If this is classed as humour then it is a far cry from what i consider humour.As far as i am concerned it is rather coarse and i recollect not having a guffaw once.I listened to roughly halfway then i marked it as completed. If i knew how to delete this audible book i would do so as it is crass.
I must be more aware which books i download as i do not want this type of so called humour in my library.
My humour comes from the pen of writers such as P.G.Wodehouse, W.W.Jacobs ,J.K.Bangs,J.K.Jerome, and E.P.Butler.

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The Emperor’s New Clothes

I had 4 attempts at trying to get into this book, each time stopping to read reviews in an attempt to see what I must be missing but, despite its purported acclaim, it didn’t work. I can only compare it to the ‘word for word’ round of the famous Radio 4 ‘antidote to quiz shows’, I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, where one team has to state random words and the other team has to find a connection. Unfortunately however I could find no connections in this inane drivel, with the only redeeming factor being the narrator! I’ll be asking for a refund.

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  • Lorenzo Coopman
  • 08-10-20

This is real!

you can read a hundred books full of death and destruction about ww1 ( like E. Junger's stupid cold book 'a storm of steel') but you won't catch a real person in it! Give me this, this is much more honest !

5 people found this helpful

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  • Jim
  • 20-07-21

Perfect narration

The story was great fun, of course, and the narration could not have been better.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Butch M.
  • 01-08-19

Funny, smart.

What a great story. Funny, poignant and thoroughly enjoyable. Worth the time and the credit. Going to re-listen to the Otto Prohaska series by Higgins. Who knew the topic of WWI Austrian soldiers could be so funny.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Amaze
  • 24-10-20

I'm not amused

The main character maintains good humor, humility, and good manners in the face of intense abuse and even torture. I don't find this amusing. On to my next read.

1 person found this helpful

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  • James
  • 05-10-19

Worth the read

Although the book has its limitations and can be repetitive it is a classic and for those interested in the WW1 era definitely adds to mood and events of the time.

1 person found this helpful