Tropos Kynikos: Jaroslav Hašek's The Good Soldier Švejk

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30   The Deserts of Bohemia

cadre, but a "semi-proletarianized petit bour­geois." Yet he is useful for the cause because of his ability to undermine the imperialist army from within—through his stolid passivity. In this he is a real social type, and "because of these characteristics," Fucik pre­dicted slyly, "The Good Soldier Svejk will become a school text on which history teachers will demonstrate the decay of the bourgeois class and of its last triumph—the military."12

A similar line of reasoning was offered at the First Congress of Soviet Writers in 1934 by one of the Czechoslovak delegation's speakers, the long-forgotten Vladimir Borin. Seconded by a Dane, Martin Anderson Nexø, and a German, Theodor Plivier, Borin elevated Svejk to a symbol of anti-militarism at this forum, which also forged the concept of Socialist Realism as proletarian literature's sole creative method.13 But only a year later the good soldier's fortune changed. After the Seventh Congress of the Comintern, the Communists no longer welcomed Svejk's blatant anti-militarism. Faced with the rise of Hitler, they realized that the military preparedness of bourgeois armies was an important asset in the struggle against Fascism in the united front, which they suddenly decided to create. A delegation of Soviet journalists who visited Prague in the fall of that year drove this point home (to the great glee of the conservative newspapers) after attending a dramatization of Hasek's novel at an avant-garde theater. The response: "Žižka [a fierce fundamentalist warrior of early fifteenth-century Bohemia], not Svejk," allegedly made by a member of the Soviet delegation after the performance, was perceived in some quarters as a clear vindication of Dyk and his view of Hasek's work.14

Fučík's 1939 essay about Hasek's novel is a good illustration of this shift in hermeneutic focus. His reassessment of the text is overtly motivated by the simple fact (which had not bothered Fučík previously) that "Hasek... did not finish his Svejk, which hinders many from comprehending the [human and literary] type of Svejk fully, in its totality." From  such  a  holistic view, the stolid
12 Julius Fučík, "Válka se Svejkem," in Stati o literatuře (Dílo Julia Fučíka, vol. 6), ist ed. (Prague, 1951), pp. 122-23.

13 Pervyy vsesoyuznyy s"ezd sovetskikh pisateley 1934: Stenograficheskiy otchet (Moscow, 1934), pp. 349,320, and 363.

14 For opposing views in this controversy, see, e.g., Ferdinand Kahánek, "Od Svejka zpět k Žižkovi," Venkov, October 27, 1935, pp. 3-4; and Marie Bergmanová, "Kolem návstěvy sovětských žurnalistů," Haló noviny, October 27, 1935, p. 3. Moscow's change of heart on Svejk had repercussions outside Czechoslovakia as well. Arthur Koestler recalls in his memoirs that in the summer of 1935 he "wrote about half of a satirical novel called The Good Soldier Schweik Goes to War Again.... It had been commissioned by Willy Münzenberg [the Comintern's chief propagandist in the West] ... but was vetoed by the Party on the grounds of the book's 'pacifist errors' " (The Invisible Writing: An Autobiography by Arthur Koestler [New York, 1954], p. 283).

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