Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I've been a bad boy but I'm making a serious effort at getting back into some good old recreational reading (darn those travel books). I've been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. Too many years of university pulled me away from the wonderful world of fiction but I'm determined to get back into it. Even a social studies teacher can only read so many social/political tomes before his head explodes.

Having bashed academia though, I did pick up an interesting book at a university book shop of all places, just off Prague's old-town square during my little European hiatus. "The Good Soldier Svejk" by Czech satirist Jaroslav Hasek is very different from any other war novel I've read. I know I'm losing a lot in the translation but I'm finding it a good read. Hasek, a corpulent little anarchist, gathered a number of short stories about a fictional Czech soldier in WWI and wove them into a novel. Given the level of invective hurled at the Austrian authorities, I'm amazed it was published in his short life time. Essentially, the good-natured Svejk, keeps trying to join his unit on the Eastern Front, but gets side-tracked by misadventure after misadventure. Fittingly, Hasek died before completing the novel so Svejk never gets where the authorities want him to go in the end.

I can't really compare the book to Remarque's "All Quiet on the Western Front". Hasek uses dialogue to drive the plot forward. The book lacks Remarque's descriptive language and is much less personable. At times, new characters just seem to pop out of nowhere with little introduction so I did find it a bit confusing at first until I adjusted to the author's writing style. At over 750 pages I can't see it making its way on to a high school reading list, which is just as well given some of its vulgarities. In the end though, Svejk is not just a Czech, but any person upset with his leader's blind folly in leading a country into war. Hmm.....something tells me a copy of this book would be hard to find on George Bush's shelf. At any rate, its good read and I'm glad to back into a non-technological pursuit.


Anonymous said...

I hope you are using the public library in arctic bay and its online catalog to get books you are intereted in.

Ron Knowling
Manager Nunavut Public Library Services