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Yaroslav Hašek and
his Good Soldier Švejk

The great Russian poet A. Pushkin says in his imitation of Horace's Ode, 'I've reared a monument not built by human hands. The public path to it cannot be overgrown'. (Translated by A.Z. Foreman).

Yaroslav Hašek is a wonderful writer. He also created a literary landmark, like Pushkin, and it continues to be in high demand. His world-famous satirical novel The Good Soldier Švejk has been translated into about 60 languages. Hašek's anti-war masterpiece become a classic, it is read, republished. Hašek's fame still spreads all over world. Many streets, libraries in the world are named in his honor. The number of monuments to Josef Švejk even exceeds the number of statues of Hašek himself. There are several museums of Yaroslav Hašek in the world.

In our city of St. Petersburg, one of the streets was named after him. The Yaroslav Hašek street crosses the square where the monument to Švejk was erected.

Yaroslav Hašek was born in 1883 in Prague to a teacher's family. In his early life, he went on foot throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and, partly, also neighboring countries. Impressions of people that he gained during these wanderings, basically, were reflected in his early stories. In the pre-war years, Hašek wrote hundreds of stories, essays, feuilletons, humoresques. In 1911, the name of the brave soldier Švejk appeared for the first time in his stories.

The First World War was the most turbulent period in the life of Hašek. It was full of dramatic events: over five years he was drafted into the Austrian army, took part in battles, was captured on the Russian front and was made a prisoner of war. Hašek had no desire to fight for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in which his homeland was under the Austrian rule. Before joining the army, Hašek joked that he would not miss the opportunity to visit the opposite side of the front line. Less than a year later, he was recruited to serve in the voluntary Czechoslovak Legions, formed in Russia at the insistence of the Czechs and Slovaks to struggle against Austria-Hungary.

He many times narrowly escaped the fate. Once he received a shot through his cap during a night reconnaissance at the Russian front. He did much journalistic work, wrote reportages from the army for the magazines and newspapers. In 1917, after the battle of Sokal , he was awarded a silver medal for bravery bravery in the Austrian army.

Yaroslav Hašek enthusiastically hailed the February Revolution in Russia. Later, he was concerned with the idea of social justice, and in the spring of 1918, the writer moved from Ukraine to Moscow, and then to the city of Samara, where he took part in the organization of international units of the Red Army.

Perhaps the most significant event in the life of Hašek was his participation in combat operations fought by the Fifth Red Army. The campaign lasted two years and covered five thousand kilometers from the River Volga to Lake Baikal. He served as an assistant to the commandant of the city of Bugulma, was the head of the mobile print shop, edited army newspapers and magazines. He worked as a recruiter and disseminated propaganda among former prisoners of war and foreigners who were found in the zone of the Fifth Army in Siberia. Hašek was discharged from his military service as the head of the international branch of the army political department. His literary activity also continued, and he wrote a considerable part of the feuilletons and articles in Russian. Two volumes in the collection of his works consist of the texts published by the author during his five-year stay in Russia.

The history of Hašek's main work, The Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk, is connected to his Russian period. Hašek already took interest in Russia in his youth. At the same time he learned the Russian language.

In Russia, a special attitude to Yaroslav Hašek. The Society of Friends of Yaroslav Hašek was established in Moscow in April 1962. It united researchers, publishers and just admirers of the writer. In recognition of his contribution in the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution, Yaroslav Hašek was awarded the Order of the Red Banner (posthumously) in 1967. In 1996, in Russia, the name Yaroslav Hašek was assigned to a new oil tanker.

The reader's interest in Hašek can be judged by the number of editions of his works. In this respect, Hašek holds the absolute superiority among Czech authors in our country. The total quantity of publications of his books issued in our country exceeded 16 million items by 1989. Once the novel about Švejk was published in Russian in exactly one million copies, and still they were instantly bought up – because readers were fond of this sorcerer of humor and laughter.

Hašek created his famous novel The Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk in the World War between 1921 and 1923 after his return home from Russia where he had spent five years. The novel has remained unfinished. The author intended to continue its events in Russia. But even the incomplete novel has became extremely popular among the readers over the whole world.

In Russia, The Good Soldier Švejk appeared in 1926 and made an indelible impression on the readership. The book won the heart of everyone, including industrial and office workers, students, military men, diplomats etc. The novel was read to tatters and smudges, its first translations were repeatedly published. Already at the first acquaintance with it, Hašek's work was highly appreciated in our country, not only by professional critics, but also writers.

For the first time the book Khashek, J. Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk was released by the Leningrad Priboy publishing house. The first two parts of the novel were translated from German edition published in 1926 in Prague (the novel was most widely spread in this language) by the writer Herbert Zukkau (1883-1937). Later, his wife Alisa Germanovna (1988-1941) joined him. Together they retold the third and fourth parts of the novel (Priboy publishing house, 1927-1928). In 1929, the first two parts of the novel by Y. Hasek (& laquo;In the rear and & laquo;On the front) was issued in Russian under the title The Adventures of the Good Soldier Svejk during the World War (Moscow, Leningrad: Goslitizdat) in the translation of the folklorist, ethnographer Petr Grigoryevich Bogatyrev (1893-1971) who lived in the Czech Republic during 1920s-1930s. Illustrations to the book were made by Georg Gross (1893-1959), a German painter, graphic artist and cartoonist, who was delighted with Hasek. All these unique editions are shown at the exposition.

P. Bogatyrev is consider to be the best translator of Y. Hasek's novel in Russian. The poet, critic and translator, Mikhail Skachkov (1896-1937) was the first to translate the stories and satires of Hasek into Russian. They were compiled in separate collections: in 1927, there was published Ears of St. Martina, in 1928, – Confession of an Old Bachelor, in 1930 he translated the first part of the novel about Švejk, printed in the series Novel-Newspaper. All these publications are demonstrated at the exhibitposition.

Several years ago, an conspicuous picture was presented at one of the graphic exhibitions in Moscow. It depicted the globe and three supporting figures: Don Quixote, Hamlet and Svejk – three symbols, three personifications of different sides of the human spirit: faith, doubt and humor.

The anti-war position of Yaroslav Hasek and his sparkling humor have evoked a warm response among readers of different countries, and his main work The Adventures of a Brave Soldier Svejk has been republished many dozen times.