Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Good Soldier Svejk by Jaroslav Hašek

"And so they've killed our Ferdinand," said the charwoman to Mr. Svejk, who had left military service years before, after having been finally certified by an army medical board as an imbecile, and now lived by selling dogs - ugly, mongrel monstrosities whose pedigrees he forged. 

What is there not to like about this line? It has conflict, in that World War I is about to begin with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. It establishes the main character of Mr. Svejk as a "certified" imbecile who sells dogs, which is amusing and sets the tone for the novel. Plus there is the bizarre mention of forging pedigrees that raises questions.

This line has the wit that other modern novels (particularly of the chick lit vein) reviewed on this blog have, but it is not just witty for witty's sake. There is information that allows a plot to move forward.

So this gets the first five star rating on this blog. Perhaps it is because I'm in a good mood, or perhaps it is because the author is dead and I don't have to worry about anyone gloating, but mostly because this line hooks. It has everything this kind of book needs. I'm ashamed to say I haven't read this, but I will, ASAP.

This is part of the series: the top 100 novels from Daniel S. Burt's book called Novel 100, the top 100 novels of all time. There is debate of course as to what should be on that list, but his opinions are as good as any. The Good Soldier Svejk comes in at number 96.

Verdict: Pure Genius (Can't get this out of my head; MUST read on - I've been manipulated!)

Theodore Moracht

UPDATE: I've been informed of another translation:

“So they’ve done it to us,” said the cleaning woman to Mr. Švejk. “They’ve killed our Ferdinand.” 

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