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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humbly Report, Sir...
The Good Soldier Svejk is one of the classics of literature that sprang from the flesh-fertilized grounds of World War 1. But Svejk is a war book with a twist. It is profoundly funny -- hiliarious in fact, an antiwar novel that wanders throughout the realm of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire without getting anywhere near the Russian front for a long time. Unlike...
Published on February 1, 2002 by Jeff Hubbell

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Book; Poor Translation
This is a wonderful, hilarious book, but it's butchered by a very poor translation. And not only is the translation often inaccurate, but the translator considerably softens Hasek's (vulgar) use of language. Until a better translation becomes available, learn Czech. It will be worth it.
Published on July 27, 1999


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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humbly Report, Sir..., February 1, 2002
By 
Jeff Hubbell (Toronto, Ontario) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Good Soldier Svejk: and His Fortunes in the World War (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) (Mass Market Paperback)
The Good Soldier Svejk is one of the classics of literature that sprang from the flesh-fertilized grounds of World War 1. But Svejk is a war book with a twist. It is profoundly funny -- hiliarious in fact, an antiwar novel that wanders throughout the realm of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire without getting anywhere near the Russian front for a long time. Unlike Remarque's brooding "All Quiet on the Western Front", or Lawrence's memoir "Seven Pillars of Wisdom", Hasek's novel views the war as a great absurdist event, a colossal stupidity witnessed by a small stupid person, Svjek (who prior to the war, made his living by selling dogs with forged pedigrees). But Svejk isn't stupid. He PLAYS dumb all right, because he knows that's how one survives. Hasek lays bare the ridiculousness of the old Habsburg monarchy: the ethnic rivalries, the endless bureaucracies, religions of convenience, the military heirarchy, as seen through the eyes of the not-as-simple-as-he-seems Czech reservist, Svjek. Through a series of mishaps, blunders, deliberate scams and other reasons, Sjvek always seems to somehow just avoid going to the front, until the very end of the book, which has kind of a surprise ending all its own. It is a wordy book (largely because Hasek wrote the book as a serial published in an Czech newspaper -- he was paid by the word), but an immensely fun one nevertheless. Considering all the serious literature that came out of the First World War, Sjvek is a hilarious treat with a serious subtext that hasn't lost its power to entertain and provoke thought. It's not to be missed.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On par with Cervantes, October 26, 2003
By 
doc peterson (Portland, Oregon USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Good Soldier Svejk: and His Fortunes in the World War (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) (Mass Market Paperback)
Just as Don Quixote is the seminal piece of Spanish literature, and War and Peace defines Russian lit, so does Hasek's classic capture the essence of the Bohemian soul, and the ridiculousness and pointlessness of World War I.
In doing the bare minimum to be considered competent, we see the nature of Czech resistance to Austro-Hungarian (and later, Soviet) authority - as Havel put it some fifty years later, it is the "power of the powerless" - subverting authority from within while seemingly going along with the grandious designs of the ruling elite.
Svejk is a common footsoldier - an "everyman" - who frankly would rather have a beer than fight, and has no real interest in the war or its outcome. The humor is subtle, the satire biting, the social criticism of Austro-Hungarian class structure dead on. Some of the jokes and jabs may be a bit above the heads of those not familiar with the history or culture of the region. It his, however, an enjoyable - and I dare say classic - read.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent translation of the original masterpiece!, March 9, 2000
This review is from: The Good Soldier Svejk: and His Fortunes in the World War (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) (Mass Market Paperback)
Contrary to "a reader from Westboro, MA," I believe this is one of the best English translations ever attempted. I DO speak Czech, and have read Svejk in both languages.
My Czech professors in California urged me to buy it in 1991, saying that the translator had done a very good job of capturing some of the nuances of the Prague accent. Now that I have lived all over Bohemia, I agree. Of course, no translation can possibly be as good as the original, but this one is about as close as they come.
They also said that if I wanted to truly understand the way Czechs think, I had to read this book. Much has changed since it was written, including the typical Czech mindset. However, many of the older Czechs with whom I spoke insisted that Svejk describes the true mentality of many typical Czechs of the period, and were excited that an American would actually be interested in truly learning the cultural and literary history of such a small nation.
History buffs occasionally scratch their heads and wonder why the Czechs have always made some of the best weapons in the world, but rarely used them. With an irreverent, bumbling style, Hasek and Svejk show us why many Czechs throughout history have preferred to "switch their coats" and go with the flow of the everchanging dominant powers, rather than be trampled underfoot.
Both the book and the translation deserve five stars.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the true classics written in witty and original style, November 19, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Good Soldier Svejk: and His Fortunes in the World War (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) (Mass Market Paperback)
The Good Soldier Svejk is like no other book I have ever read. It is truly a classic war satire and is on par with books like Catch 22. I see it as the spawn of many satires written about WWII however quite rightly no author has ever tried to replicate the style that it was written in. Jaroslav Hasek had one of the most interesting lives of any author, switching from Austro-Hungarian to Russian Monarchist to Bolshevik to Czech nationalist during WWI and his life story is reflected somewhat in his story while he illustrates it with brilliant humour.
The character of Svejk is developed in such an intricate way that makes it difficult to discover his real purposes but the book is not damaged in the slightest by the fact that it was cut short because of Hasek's untimely death. In fact it has only helped to cultivate the Svejk legend.
I encourage ANYONE to read this book. If your knowledge of Austria-Hungary and WWI is lacking, then this is the best way to learn!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the Funniest Novel Ever, June 19, 2000
By 
Stephen M. Kerwick (Wichita, KS United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Good Soldier Svejk: and His Fortunes in the World War (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) (Mass Market Paperback)
I first read Hasek's masterpiece almost 30 years ago in a shorter and more Bowdlerized translation. The Cecil Parrot edition is, needless to say, much preferable (it contains a wonderful introduction including a discussion of Czech profanity as compared to English) and I've read it again and again since it came out in 1974. Shelby Foote said somewhere that every year he reads Proust as a sort of literary vacation. About ever 2 or 3 years I reread Svejk to clean my literary palate and it's always as fresh and as enjoyable as it was the first time. The dialogue, the characters and the situations in Svejk are, stated simply, the funniest I've ever read. Many other books have many merits in this regard, but none has approached Hasek in the sustained hilarity over 500 pages or more. The secret policeman, Bretschneider, Chaplain Katz, Sergeant Major Vanek, Cadet Biegler, Balloun and Lt. Dub are each memorable characters but when they interact they surpass anything I have ever read for comedy. The term "laugh out loud" is much used and abused recently, but The Good Soldier Svejk will have you disturbing family and friends repeatedly with guffawing any time you read it in their presence. I can't give a text any higher recommendation.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The anti-hero at war, June 10, 2001
This review is from: The Good Soldier Svejk: and His Fortunes in the World War (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) (Mass Market Paperback)
This novel is one of the best books ever written about war, but its main character isn't a brave soldier ( as the title ironically shows), but an anti-hero, considering that the most realistic view of war doesn't deal with heroism but with resistance and survival, more so because are precisely the bravest the ones to fall sooner, while the non valiant just think about the ways to flee from death. The novel is a satire of the Great War begun in 1914, specially of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a war which begun almost happily and irresponsibly by the means of every European country, and which initiated the bloody history of the twentieth century. Three monarchies were mainly responsible for the war, Prussia, Austria and Russia, and the three lost their crowns for ever. The novel deals with popular humour in the best Czech tradition, and it somehow reminds me of the picaresque Spanish Literature, and it chooses an sceptical view of the military and the worn concept of patriotism, so often manipulated. From my point of view, there are two ways of seeing war: the one represented by the splendid "All Quiet on the Western Front" by Eric Maria Remarque, a tragic vision, or the one represented by "The Good Soldier Svejk", also splendid, but satirical although dramatical at the bottom. The conclusion is that war can't be brilliant nor heroic because there's nothing heroic about dying neither about seeing how people die for the sake of political strategies between nations, whatever legitimate they may be.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic and a very funny book, July 6, 2006
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This review is from: The Good Soldier Svejk: and His Fortunes in the World War (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) (Mass Market Paperback)
This is one of the classics and in fact was quoted in the The Times of London as one of the 100 books of the last century. It is funny and it is wise and shows with absolute clarity the absurdity of war, dictatorship or regimentation of any kind.

It is very well translated into English by a former British ambassador to Czechoslovakia.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timesless, Hilarious, Engaging, July 12, 1998
This review is from: The Good Soldier Svejk: and His Fortunes in the World War (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) (Mass Market Paperback)
As someone who often has trouble with books not written in the last 30 years, I was a little daunted at the idea of reading a book written at the time of the First World War. I needn't have been - the humour, satire and sarcasm are of a kind that seem extremely modern. The book is a sheer joy to read, very easy going, and will have you splitting your sides with laughter. The only minus is that Hasek died before completing his novel, but this still doesn't stop it from being, without a doubt, one of the best books I have ever read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the Best of All Time, August 30, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Good Soldier Svejk: and His Fortunes in the World War (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) (Mass Market Paperback)
There are very few books in my personal library of over a thousand that I come back to read again and again. This is at the head of the list. Not only is it the funniest and cleverest novel I've read, it does so in a translation from the native Czech. If you can read this and not laugh, you need to see a physician, because you may be dying or possibly dead already.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Profoundly Hilarious Study Of Humanity, August 8, 2001
By 
mimozas_husband (Seattle, WA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Good Soldier Svejk: and His Fortunes in the World War (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) (Mass Market Paperback)
This is one of those books that you can never get enough of and it always amazes you with its simplicity and originality. The book is like an endless gallery of human characters lost and exposed by the turmoil of the war. It is a comedy of words and situations, yet it is also in a way the revenge of the small people against the big mindless "system." It is the ultimate guide to not taking the world seriously. It is unbeleivably enjoyable. It helps of course if you are eastern european makes it easier to recognize and identify. But still the greatest book ever if I had to choose one.
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The Good Soldier Svejk: and His Fortunes in the World War (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin)
The Good Soldier Svejk: and His Fortunes in the World War (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) by Jaroslev Hasek (Mass Market Paperback - August 23, 1990)
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