Tropos Kynikos: Jaroslav Hašek's The Good Soldier Švejk

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64   The Deserts of Bohemia

suitable time for warfare'" (579; 602). At the extreme, Svejk's tales are weapons capable of inflicting injury on unfriendly listeners. For example, our hero tells a story about an absent-minded engine driver to Sergeant-Major Nasáklo, who is subjecting him to a punitive rifle drill. The story is so convoluted and takes so long to tell that poor Nasáklo, involuntarily absorbed by the narrative, eventually collapses with what is diagnosed by a doctor as "a case of sunstroke or acute meningitis" (540; 558).

From the Gricean standpoint, Svejk's narratives clearly clash with all the maxims except the M.QL, which does not apply here (a story can be fictitious). But, once again, this nonfulfillment relates in a peculiar way to the overall CP. It might be described as the inversion of opting out—the termination of a conversation by a unilateral shutting down of the chan­nel. Logorrhea accomplishes the same end through opposite means: one­sided overloading of the channel. Yet while such a radical "opting in" is similar in effect to opting out, it differs from the latter in that it does not break contact between the participants in a speech situation. The compul­sive storyteller seems exceedingly interested in verbal intercourse—he keeps talking and talking to the listener—though, paradoxically, the very demonstration of this desire makes a genuine exchange impossible. The semblance of cooperation is, furthermore, perpetuated through Svejk's concern for his listener: "Wasn't that story perhaps a little long, sir?" (552;

570), he asks Lieutenant Lukas when he finishes a tale extending over two printed pages.

My limited discussion of Diogenes' and Svejk's uses of language sug­gests a significant difference between the two kynik heroes. While neither makes the CP operative in his respective discourse, each tends to disrupt it in different ways: Diogenes by openly opting out of the conversational maxims (and the CP), Svejk by violating the maxims in a surreptitious manner which often makes his interlocutor wonder whether the de­tectable failure is not an unintentional consequence of mental defect rather than evidence of Svejk's unwillingness to engage in a reasonable exchange. This impression is further enhanced by the polite behavior of our good soldier, bordering sometimes on obsequiousness, his invariable habit of addressing his military superiors with the phrase "humbly re­port, sir," and his amiable countenance ("the tender blue eyes," "the gaze of a pure and innocent lamb"). These all signal Svejk's eagerness to coop­erate, but this gesture is always somehow subverted, left unrealized be­cause of circumstances that seem to be beyond his control.

Svejk's compulsive storytelling adds another dimension to this confu­sion. It subverts communication by communication: words are used as a protective shield against alien, hostile words. And though an outright refusal to engage verbally with those in power would be self-destructive

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