Josef Švejk 
['yoh-zehph 'shvake]


Great times demand great people. There are unrecognized, unassuming heroes, without the fame and history of Napoleon. The results of an analysis of their character would overshadow the glory of even Alexander the Great. Nowadays, you can run into a shabby man in the streets of Prague who himself has no idea of the significance he actually has in the history of the great new era. He modestly walks on his way, not bothering anybody. In turn, he isn't bothered by journalists, who otherwise would be begging him for an interview. If you were to ask him his name, he would answer you with childlike simplicity and modesty: "I'm Švejk . . ."

And this quiet, unassuming, shabby man is indeed the good old soldier Švejk: heroic and valiant, whose name was once upon a time, during the Austrian rule, on the lips of all the citizens of the Czech Kingdom, and whose fame will not fade even in the Republic.

I really very much like the good soldier Švejk, and in presenting his fateful adventures during the World War, I am convinced that all of you will sympathize with this modest, unrecognized hero. He did not torch the temple of the goddess in Ephesus, as did that idiot Herostrates, just to get himself into the newspapers and classroom readers.

And that is enough.


(Jaroslav Hašek's Introduction to Book One of his masterpiece The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk During the World War)