After the "Chicago version" English translation of the Good Soldier Švejk was finally published as a paperback (2000-2009), some people wondered why it didn't include Josef Lada's illustrations. Here is how the translator addressed the question in Slovo magazine (Volume 1, Number 2 Winter 2000) of The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa:
Several people have asked why our edition of Švejk does not contain the famous illustrations by Josef Lada. It is said that the book and the pictures are virtually inseparable. (We find that Americans do not respond to Lada's pictures as enthusiastically as one would hope.)
After a long consideration we decided not to use Lada’s illustrations. For one, Hašek had never seen and therefore had neither authorized them. And two, they significantly differ from the one picture which Hašek did see and which adorned the cover of the serial booklets, the format of Švejk’s originally published edition.
The main reason however was that Švejk is a very complex character, but Lada’s illustrations shift the character of Josef Švejk onto a plane of a clown or even a buffoon. (That certainly did not bother the communist rulers who, if Hašek were still alive, would have sent him and his Švejk to the uranium mines for reeducation.)
Hašek's book is a masterpiece of satire, not comedy. We decided that Jaroslav Hašek would address readers of English alone, using only his text (albeit merely in our as-faithful-as-possible translation.)
To omit and even disparage the famous pictures seemed almost sacriligous to many at the time, and to many others it still does. Yet, on the 100th anniversary of the publication of the original Czech text, others have echoed these sentiments even in the Czech Republic. The following excerpts are from a series of articles devoted to the Švejk centennial published in Lidové noviny [People's Newspaper] between February 26th and March 18th 2021:
Writer Bohuslav Vaněk-Úvalský says this about Lada's Švejk as he appears in the unauthorized images:
I have no sympathy for the potbellied, slow-witted monster which Lada arbitrarily created after Hašek's death for his comic strip in České slovo [Czech Word newspaper] - which over time became in our lands the embodiment of Hašek's literary character. Lada even rewrote the novel to a level of tamed idiocy.
As if the images Lada created for his own purposes weren't bad enough for how Hašek's Švejk would be perceived, it has been cannonized like a false god by Rudolf Hrušínský in the movies Dobrý voják Švejk [The Good Soldier Svejk] (1956) and Poslusně hlásím, že jsem opět zde [I dutifully report that I'm here again] (1957) directed by Karel Steklý. David Lancz, the editor of the People's Newspaper Orientace segment, in the second to the last paragraph of his own examination of the phenomenon of Švejk declares:
We no longer see in front of us the smiling demented face of Rudolf Hrušínský or the crutches-waving caricature by Josef Lada. The Švejk stepping out is different...
Early in the article David Lancz identifies the reason for the persistence of Švejk's identity confusion in the Czech lands:
Visual rendition of Švejk also represents a problem in perception to some extent. 'I recently verified with my students that Švejk is not read. Švejk is a tradition, it is perceived as a film," says literary scientist Pavel Janoušek from the Institute of Czech Literature of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. That is the problem - when you say Švejk, most of us imagine either a pot-bellied monster by Josef Lada or Rudolf Hrušínský of the movies ...
Needless to say, even the English-speaking world has fallen under the wicked spell of Lada's illustrations since the 1973 publication of the first unabridged English translation by Cecil Parrott, former ambassdor to the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in the 1960s. It probably brought a nice little stream of the sorely needed hard-currency into the State coffers and at least visibility for the Lada estate's property. Sadly, it changed the nature and reputation of the book and its protagonist. The damage will be hard to undo.
Having aired the virtual taboo issue of the de facto hijacked identity of Švejk by Lada's pictures which were mirrored and reinforced by Hrušínský's realization of it in the two films (and Švejk impersonators and trinkets merchandisires), David Lancz declares:
In this regard it is necessary to commend the act of the XYZ Publishers which in 2008 in a nearly revolutionary manner published Švejk without Lada's illustration, [but] with pictorial accompaniment from Petr Urban."
The article also discusses the question of whether Švejk is such a uniquely Czech character as the popular tradition holds, or not. The declaration of the "nearly revolutionary manner" of publishing the text of Jaroslav Hašek's masterpiece without Lada's iconic pictures reminds one of another invention of Hašek's that is considered to be another manifestation and embodiment of a uniquely Czech phenomenon with an attitude: The Party of Moderate Progress within the Bounds of Law. Imagine how truly revolutionary it will be, when the text appears by itself, letting Jaroslav Hašek speak for himself as he did when he published the serialized book starting in March of 1921. Interestingly enough, the translator of the above mentioned "Chicago version", free-of-Lada's-pictures English translation (1997-2009) worked from the Czech text published without any illustrations by the Odeon publishers in the heady year of 1968 which ended in the tragic invasion of Czechoslovakia by the "five fraternal armies" of the Warsaw Pact countries. One could say that one revolution begets another.
The Lada-inspired false image of Švejk was even on display at the Prague Madame Tussauds wax figures museum. He is no longer listed as being there. Then another was part of the collection of the now permanently closed Musee Grévin s.r.o. Prague.
Perhaps the time is near when Jaroslav Hašek's Josef Švejk will be stripped of all the deleterious residue deposited on him by sometimes well-intentioned, but misguided keepers of the cultural keys, and interpreters of reality.