Hašek's Good Soldier Švejk as a Picaresque Novel


Hasek's Good Soldier Svejk as a Picaresque Novel   259

presented in another article,26 in order to judge his thesis. Dobossy sees the novel as portraying a struggle to the death between the two social groups in the novel, which he labels simply as the ruling class and the common people. Svejk, as the representative of the Common Man, sees the world of the ruling classes from the outside: "... er hat mit jener Welt nichts zu schaffen, er anerkennt ihre Gesetze nicht, ernimmt ihre Regel nicht hin, und in ihren verschiedenen Vertretern sieht er nur den Feind, den man besiegen, betrügen, irreführen muss."27 In one sense it is true that Svejk has nothing to do with this upper-class world; the murder of Ferdinand concerns him no more than that of a neighbor. But ultimately he is uprooted and dragged off to war by this world, and he survives not by rejecting the laws and rules of his superiors, but by following them to the point where they become absurd. As to the latter claim, that Svejk sees all the representatives of the ruling bureaucracy as enemies, this is patent nonsense. Svejk's complete loyalty to Lieutenant Lukash is apparent throughout—Dobossy sidesteps this by admitting that Lukash does not belong entirely to "the other world"—and his loyalty even to Otto Katz extends to the point where he gives Katz his last hundred crowns so that he may remain his orderly, whereupon Katz promptly gambles the money away. Even when on trial for his life in the final volume, Svejk denies nothing of what he has done, and makes no attempt to deceive the officers in any way. Only towards one man, Lieutenant Dub, does he display any hostility, not because he is an officer, but because he has it in for Svejk

We may also question whether the "two worlds" of the novel are separated entirely along class lines to begin with. No one reading the novel can fail to see that it is of crucial importance that these are Czech common people confronting an Austrian imperial bureaucracy, and that the barrier is largely a linguistic and national one. That the arch-villain Lieutenant Dub is a Czech is no argument against the nationalism which Hasek displays. No one is more hateful to a nationalist than a country­man of his who remains loyal to a foreign power. If Svejk rises above national prejudice, as Dobossy claims, it is only to the extent that he is too good-humored to care much about anyone who isn't bothering him personally.

Dobossy claims further that as his company approaches closer to the front, Svejk takes on the role of defending his fellow soldiers against abuse from the officers. This claim is based on only one incident, in which Svejk drags Dub's orderly Kunert to Captain Sagner to protest Dub's mistreatment of Kunert. This incident, however, occurs im­mediately after one of Svejk's own unpleasant encounters with Dub, and from the context it becomes clear that Svejk is concerned mainly with getting back at Dub.