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The Good Soldier Švejk

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Franz Ferdinand and Sophie leave the Sarajevo Town Hall, five minutes before the assassination, 28 June 1914.

The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk is a novel with an unusually rich array of characters. In addition to the many who directly form part of the plot, a large number of fictive and real people (and animals) are mentioned; either through Švejk's anecdotes, the narrative or indirectly through words and expressions.

This web page contains short write-ups on the persons the novel refers to; from Napoléon in the introduction to captain Ságner in the last few lines of the unfinished Book Four. The list is sorted in to the order of which the names first appear. The chapter headlines are from Zenny K. Sadlon's recent translation and will in most cases differ from Cecil Parrott's version from 1973. In January 2014 there were still around twenty entries to be added.

  • The quotes in Czech are copied from the on-line version of the novel provided by Jaroslav Šerák and contain links to the relevant chapter
  • The tool-bar has links for direct access to Wikipedia, Google search and Švejk on-line

The names are colored according to their role in the novel, illustrated by the following examples: Doctor Grünstein who is directly involved in the plot, Heinrich Heine as a historical person, and Ferdinand Kokoška as an invented person. Note that a number of seemingly fictive characters are modelled after very real living persons. See for instance Lukáš and Wenzl.

>> The Good Soldier Švejk index of people mentioned in the novel (585) Show all
>> I. In the rear
>> II. At the front
>> III. The famous thrashing
Index Back Forward I. In the rear Hovudpersonen

Introduction

Napoléon Bonapartenn flag
*15.8.1769 Ajaccio - †5.5.1821 St.Helena
Wikipedia czdeenfrnnno Google search
napoleon.jpg

At Fontainebleau after the defeat in 1814.

Napoléon has the honour of being the first person to be mentioned in the novel. He is also mentioned in [I.1], and later in the novel he appears several times. Švejk mentions that Napoléon was five minutes late at Waterloo and his whole reputation subsequently went down the toilet. This was when the train stopped before Tábor in [II.1].

Background

Napoléon was emperor of France from 18 May 1804 to 6 April 1814. He had gradually assembled power in the aftermath of the French Revolution, aided by his unique military talent and many successes on the battlefield. He conquered and ruled over most of western and central Europe and for a couple of years also held power in Egypt. A failed campaign in Russia in 1812 weakened his position, and laid the foundations for his final defeat at Waterloo in 1815.

Several battles during the Napoleonic wars are mentioned: Leipzig, Aspern and Waterloo. Napoléon won a major victory in the only large battle he was involved it on Czech territory: Austerlitz (now Slavkov) near Brno 2 December 1805.

Quote from the novel
[Úvod] Velká doba žádá velké lidi. Jsou nepoznaní hrdinové, skromní, bez slávy a historie Napoleona. Rozbor jejich povahy zastínil by slávu Alexandra Macedonského. Dnes můžete potkat v pražských ulicích ošumělého muže, který sám ani neví, co vlastně znamená v historii nové velké doby.
[1.1] Palivec byl známý sprosťák, každé jeho druhé slovo byla zadnice nebo hovno. Přitom byl ale sečtělý a upozorňoval každého, aby si přečetl, co napsal o posledním předmětě Victor Hugo, když líčil poslední odpověď' staré gardy Napoleonovy Angličanům v bitvě u Waterloo.
[1.10] A tak slova Napoleonova "Na vojně se mění situace každým okamžikem" došla i zde svého úplného potvrzení.
[1.14.2] Každý z nich je Napoleonem: "Povídal jsem našemu obrstovi, aby telefonoval do štábu, že už to může začít".
Alexander the Greatnn flag
*20.6.356 BC Pella - †10.6.323 BC Babylon
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Alexander the Great is introduced as someone that Švejk exceeds the reputation of!

Alexander re-appears several times later in the novel, including in the author's reflections on the officer servant occupation in [I.14]. Here it is revealed that even Alexander had his own Putzfleck.

Background

Alexander the Great was king of Macedonia. The Greek city states had already been united by his father, Philip II of Macedon. Alexander conquered Persia, Egypt and a number of other kingdoms and reached northern India. The conquests led to a rapid spread of Greek culture on the Eurasian continent. Thus he played a major part in the future extending of Greek culture and language.

Quote from the novel
[Úvod] Velká doba žádá velké lidi. Jsou nepoznaní hrdinové, skromní, bez slávy a historie Napoleona. Rozbor jejich povahy zastínil by slávu Alexandra Macedonského. Dnes můžete potkat v pražských ulicích ošumělého muže, který sám ani neví, co vlastně znamená v historii nové velké doby.
[1.14.2] Instituce důstojnických sluhů je prastarého původu. Zdá se, že již Alexandr Macedonský měl svého pucfleka.

Also written:Alexandr Macedonský Hašek Alexandr Veliký cz Alexander der Große de Mégas Aléxandros gr

Voják Švejk, Josefnn flag
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obalka.png

Josef Lada's first drawing of Švejk, 1921

svejk.jpg

© Josef Lada, 1955

Švejk is mentioned in the first paragraph of the introduction and he is obviously the main character of the novel. He was a dog trader from Prague, who lived by selling bastard animals that he falsified the pedigrees of. Švejk was unmarried and spent a great deal of time in the pubs of the Bohemian capital.

Švejk possessed considerable oral skills, but his mental horizon is still under debate. It is known that he was dismissed from the army due to idiocy, but it is unclear if this was feigned or not. He certainly had a good memory and had read a lot, which indicates that his limited mental abilities may have been stage-play. In the epilogue to Book One, the author explicitly states that he never meant Švejk to be feeble-minded, so that issue should be clear.

Politically, he was the apparently not very active, only brief passages reveal that he was against Austria and the Catholic Church, although he mostly said exactly the opposite. Švejk was occasionally both deceitful and a thief, but in other cases he showed moral substance, particularly towards the end of the novel. He could at times appear detached and cynical - perhaps this was a defence mechanism in the unforgiving surroundings he found himself in.

Švejk came through the war unhurt, but what happened to him at the front is unclear as the novel was never completed. His first name Josef is first used in his confession at Policejní ředitelství in the second chapter. In the course of the novel the main character is mentioned more than 2,000 times in a novel of slightly more than 200,000 words.

Personal information

The author provides sparse personal information about his hero, but some details can be read or deduced from the novel. Švejk's age at the outbreak of war must have been between 31 and 36 and he was a so called Landsturm-mann (reservist). This can be deduced from the circumstances around the draft at Štřelecký ostrov.

Very early on the reader is told that the soldier suffer from rheumatism, and made a living by trading dogs. Later it is revealed that his father was Prokop Švejk and the mother Antonie Švejková and the soldier seems to have been born in Dražov by Strakonice. At the outbreak of war he must have lived close to U kalicha in Praha II.. Through anecdotes we known that he some years back worked in Moravská Ostrava. Still many years back he was wandering/travelling around and got as far as Bremen. Furthermore he had once lived in Opatovická ulice.

As the reader know he was years ago dismissed from the army due to idiocy, but then follows a logical short-circuit: he still took part in military exercises, and several of them. We also know that he 20 December 1914 served Lukáš in Prague. As a soldier he had served by IR91 in Budějovice, and it was this regiment he rejoined some time after the outbreak of war, probably in early 1915. Apart from this we know that he took part in army exercises in Písek, Velké Meziříčí, Veszprém and Osijek. Švejk had also served as a conscript in Trident (Trento), and this city is a theme that appears in all the three versions of "The Good Soldier Švejk" (1911, 1917, 1921).

Background

The good soldier Švejk is in the end a product of the author's literary creativity, but as with several of the other characters in the plot, he clearly has real-life models. The most obvious of these is the writer himself; he lends several personal qualities and biographical details to his hero. See Jaroslav Hašek for more about this theme.

A borrowed name

The name Josef Švejk itself is by near certainty borrowed from a real person. A young man of that name is registered with home address next to U kalicha from June 1912, and may have lived there also when Jaroslav Hašek invented his good soldier in May 1911. It is quite likely that Jaroslav Hašek knew this man (or knew about him), particularly since they from 1916 both served in České legie. That said he seems to have borrowed little more than the name from him.

Another Josef Švejk that the author surely knew about was MP for the Agrarian Party, and this person is much more likely to have lent the good soldier his name in 1911. The young Josef is however a good candidate for having caused the rebirth of Švejk in 1917 and not the least in 1921 (it is only now that Švejk is connected to U kalicha). For further discussions, see Josef Švejk.

Pucflek Strašlipka

Another often touted inspiration is František Strašlipka, the servant of Oberleutnant Rudolf Lukas from the outbreak of war until the formers capture on 24 September 1915. Apart from his position in the nomenclature of IR91, Strašlipka is also believed to have inspired Švejk's incessant story-telling.

Otherwise Švejk's and František Strašlipka's biographies differ greatly. Strašlipka was the Putzfleck of Rudolf Lukas from the very start of the war and joined him in the field immediately. On the other hands Švejk was originally a Landsturm reservist and to judge by his call-up date 10 years older than Strašlipka. He was drafted several months later and didn't serve only Lukáš. As opposed to Strašlipka he was once superarbitrated and also served as a messenger, a role the former never had.

Zdeněk Matěj Kuděj

Last but not least certain experiences of his good friend Zdeněk Matěj Kuděj (1881 - 1955) can be recognised in Hašek's literary hero. This is particularly evident in part I where many chapters have few obvious links to the author's own time-line.

Links

SourceRadko Pytlík, Jaroslav Šerák, Jan Morávek, Jan Prchal

Quote from the novel
[Úvod] Velká doba žádá velké lidi. Jsou nepoznaní hrdinové, skromní, bez slávy a historie Napoleona. Rozbor jejich povahy zastínil by slávu Alexandra Macedonského. Dnes můžete potkat v pražských ulicích ošumělého muže, který sám ani neví, co vlastně znamená v historii nové velké doby. Jde skromně svou cestou, neobtěžuje nikoho, a není též obtěžován žurnalisty, kteří by ho prosili o interview. Kdybyste se ho otázali, jak se jmenuje, odpověděl by vám prostince a skromně: „Já jsem Švejk…“
Artemisnn flag
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Artemis is mentioned indirectly by the author through the expression "the temple of the goddess in Ephesus". See Temple of Artemis.

Background

Artemis was a Greek goddess, daughter of Zeus and sister of Apollo. Artemis was the virgin moon goddess for hunting, healing, chastity and child birth. She was also protector of wild animals and the wilderness. She was often revered as a godess of fertility. Her Roman equivalent was Diana.

Her named had already appeared directly in an article by Jaroslav Hašek in Čechoslovan 29 January 1917 (10 February our calendar), but in the Roman version of Diana.

Když se zametá, Čechoslovan, 29 January 1917: A náš redaktor chtěl se dostat do dějin. Stejně jako Hérostratés, když zapálil chrám bohyně Diany, právě v tu noc, kdy se narodil Alexandr Veliký. Jenže Hérostratos měl před ním tu výhodu, že nebyl osobní.

Source: wikipedia.no

Quote from the novel
[Úvod] Mám velice rád tohoto dobrého vojáka Švejka, a podávaje jeho osudy za světové války, jsem přesvědčen, že vy všichni budete sympatizovat s tím skromným, nepoznaným hrdinou. On nezapálil chrám bohyně v Efesu, jako to udělal ten hlupák Herostrates, aby se dostal do novin a školních čítanek.

Also written:Ἄρτεμις gr

Herostratusnn flag
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Herostratus is ridiculed as being exactly the opposite of the unassuming hero of this novel. Herostratus is described as the fool who set fire to the temple in Ephesus in order to get his name in newspapers and text books.

Background

Herostratus (also called Herostrates) set fire to the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus in 356 BC in order to become known, cf Herostratic fame. He was executed the same year.

This was not the first time Jaroslav Hašek wrote about Herostratus. In a stinging article in Čechoslovan on 29 January 1917 (10 February our calendar) a similar imagery appears. The target is easy to identify although no names are mentioned: Bohdan Pavlů, editor of the competing weekly Čechoslovák in Petrograd.

Sergey Soloukh (2017) also points out the parallel to the story Cena slávy from 1913. The author mixes up the name with Efialtes but it is without doubt Herostrates, Ephesus and the temple of the goddess Diana he has in mind.

Když se zametá

A náš redaktor chtěl se dostat do dějin. Stejně jako Hérostratés, když zapálil chrám bohyně Diany, právě v tu noc, kdy se narodil Alexandr Veliký. Jenže Hérostratos měl před ním tu výhodu, že nebyl osobní.

Cena slavý

Ve starověku žil v Řecku muž jménem Efialtes, jehož jedinou tužbou bylo, aby se stal slavným a aby se o něm mluvilo. Aby toho dosáhl, šel a zapálil nádherný chrám bohyně Diany v Efesu, jeden ze sedmi divů světa.

Links

Quote from the novel
[Úvod] Mám velice rád tohoto dobrého vojáka Švejka, a podávaje jeho osudy za světové války, jsem přesvědčen, že vy všichni budete sympatizovat s tím skromným, nepoznaným hrdinou. On nezapálil chrám bohyně v Efesu, jako to udělal ten hlupák Herostrates, aby se dostal do novin a školních čítanek.

Also written:Herostrates Hašek Herostratos cz

Hašek, Jaroslav Matěj Františeknn flag
*30.4.1883 Praha - †3.1.1923 Lipnice nad Sázavou
Wikipedia czdeennnruuk Google search
hasek.jpg

O životě Jaroslava Haška, Zdena Ančík, 1953

hasek_epitafy.png

Kopřivy, 10.9.1914

Hašek is referred to five times in the novel. He signs the introduction as "The author". Then he briefly appears as "I" in the narrative in [I.14] when re-tells his experiences with officer servants. Finally he signs the epilogue to Part I, using his full name.

Background

Hašek was a Czech writer, best known for the unfinished satirical novel The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk During the World War. He wrote around 1,500 short stories, was the co-author of a collection of poems, and also contributed to a few plays and cabarets. Jaroslav Hašek is considered a prominent satirist, and Švejk, being translated into 58 languages, is the most translated book written in Czech ever.

The novel about Švejk is closely linked to the author's own experiences in K.u.k. Heer in 1915, and also contains numerous autobiographical elements from other periods in his life. For more information on this theme, see Jaroslav Hašek in the 'Who is Who' section.

Links

Quote from the novel
[Úvod] On nezapálil chrám bohyně v Efesu, jako to udělal ten hlupák Herostrates, aby se dostal do novin a školních čítanek.
A to stačí. Autor.
[1.14.2] U 91. pluku znal jsem jich několik. Jeden pucflek dostal velkou stříbrnou proto, že uměl báječně péct husy, které kradl...
[1.14.2] Viděl jsem jednoho zajatého důstojnického sluhu, který od Dubna šel s druhými pěšky až do Dárnice za Kyjevem...
[1.14.2] Nikdy nezapomenu toho člověka, který se tak mořil s tím přes celou Ukrajinu...
[1.16] Stane-li se však slovo Švejk novou nadávkou v květnatém věnci spílání, musím se spokojit s tímto obohacením českého jazyka. Jaroslav Hašek.

Also written:Ярослав Гашек ru Ярослав Гашек ua

Index Back Forward I. In the rear Hovudpersonen

Introduction


© 2009 - 2019 Jomar Hønsi Last updated: 23/6-2019