IntroductionMany admirers of Švejk may not be aware that their hero actually appeared in three different versions. Our man first saw light of day in 1911; in five short stories published by the magazines "Karikatury" and "Dobrá kopa". These were published in books form in 1912 as "Dobrý voják Švejk a jiné podivné historky" (The good soldier Švejk and other strange stories). The first of those stories appeared in Josef Lada's magazine " Karikatury" on 22 May 1911, thus marking Švejk's official birthday.
The second version was written when Hašek was a recruiter, agitator and editor, working for the Czechoslovak Brigade in Russia in 1916/17. It is called "Dobrý voják Švejk v zajetí" (The good soldier Švejk in captivity) and is a short, satirical novel. Here the outbursts against Austria-Hungary and her henchmen are far more direct than in the more humorous novel.
An early predecessor
|King Oscar II of Sweden was well served|
Then on 30 January 1907 the anarchist paper "Nová Omladina" published a story which would have struck a cord with future readers of Švejk: Povídka o hodném švědském vojákovi (The story of a kind Swedish soldier). In this grotesque tale a Swedish soldier who is on guard duty in 25 degrees below zero. He mutilates himself to avoid falling asleep and freezing to death. Still death holds no fear for him as he will after all perish honourably for the sake of king Oscar and his dear fatherland. He also cherishes army property more than his own miserable life and is loyally dedicated to his officer. Although this unknown soldier has no name and does not utter a single word before he with a joyful heart dies for king Oscar, he is clearly a familiar figure to readers of Švejk. One important distinction though: this soldier died abjectly whereas Švejk survived by his wits ...
|Švejk captures and Italian donkey and a machine gun.|
|Švejk in Tripoli|
In story number four (Dobrá kopa, 21.7 1911) Švejk blows up a powder magazine by smoking his familiar pipe. He is the only survivor.
Finally, in the fifth story (Dobrá kopa, 28.7 1911), Švejk joins the budding k.u.k air force and flies off to Libya by accident, with his officer on board. Before getting this far he crashed his plane into the Danube. According to the story, the entire Austrian air force consists of 18 airships (that are impossible to operate) and five aeroplanes.
Hašek and Trento
Significantly there is no mention of any pre-war military service in his "Hauptgrundbuchblatt", nor does it make sense that he should have been called up for the 28th regiment when he later was to appear in the 91st. His wife Jarmila has no recollection of him having been called up, although Josef Lada claims he was (but adds that Hašek was declared unfit for service and sent home from Trento).
Radko Pytlík in Kniha o Švejkovi suggests a more plausible explanation: that Hašek drew inspiration from his friend Josef Mach who server in Trento, and probably from other army veterans as well.
Švejk in captivity
|Thalerhof, one of three prisoner camps for "Zivilisten"|
The details from Királyhida seem more authentic and verifiable than in the novel, which is only natural as Bruck/Királyhida would have been fresher in the author's mind. The trip to the front is only briefly described, but interestingly it diverges completely somewhere in the Carpathians. Sanok is not mentioned at all, and the march battalion travel by train even beyond Sambor and gets involved in fighting near a place called Kamenec (not yet identified). As far as we know, Hašek's unit was only involved in minor skirmishes before Sokal on 25 July 1915, so where the inspiration for this story comes from is unclear. We are told there is a river, perhaps the Bug? Perhaps Kamenec is Kamionka Strumiłowa? At the front Dauerling asks to be shot in the arm but Švejk misfires (or did he?) and dispatches him to the eternal trenches. Finally the good soldier lets himself get captured by the Russians.
|Hauptwache, Brucker Lager.|
The good soldier Švejk in captivity may not be be the greatest piece of literature; propaganda is a more fitting description. Still it was popular amongst his readers, but it is always easier to address a congregation that is already converted to some cause, in this case the fight for Czech and Slovak nationhood. But this is no denigration of Hašek's work. At the time he was ardently committed to his cause and put his effort into that rather than in entertaining the masses.
As far as know the novel has only been translated once; to Russian in 1959 (Гашек, Ярослав. Бравый солдат Швейк в плену. Page 9–102)
For švejkologs only
In this respect "Captivity" is even more impressive than the novel, the short stories less so. Particularly meticulous is his description of psychiatric institutions and personalities, but all the factual descriptions are generally solid, more so than in the novel. The number of places and real persons mentioned is as high (per page) as in the novel, but the fictive figures are somewhat fewer due to the lack of monologues.
The five short stories I find mildly amusing, but bland. Švejk in captivity is not even amusing, but compensates by being far more educational. Unfortunately it soon becomes tedious in its tirade against the Central Powers. Here I ought to add that I knew the novel Švejk very well before I read any of the predecessors, so I was somehow destined to be disappointed.