The Good Soldier Svejk is the abbreviated title of an unfinished satirical/dark comedy novel by Jaroslav Hašek.
The novel is set during World War I in Austria-Hungary, a multi-ethnic empire full of long-standing tensions. Fifteen million people died in the War, one million of them Austro-Hungarian soldiers of whom around 140,000 were Czechs. Jaroslav Hasek participated in this conflict and examined it in The Good Soldier Svejk.
Many of the situations and characters seem to have been inspired, at least in part, by Hašek's service in the 91st Infantry Regiment of the Austro-Hungarian Army. The novel also deals with broader anti-war themes: essentially a series of absurdly comic episodes, it explores both the pointlessness and futility of conflict in general and of military discipline, Austrian military discipline, in particular. Many of its characters, especially the Czechs, are participating in a conflict they do not understand on behalf of a country to which they have no loyalty.
The character of Josef Svejk is a development of this theme. Through possibly-feigned idiocy or incompetence he repeatedly manages to frustrate military authority and expose its stupidity in a form of passive resistance: the reader is left unclear, however, as to whether Svejk is genuinely incompetent, or acting quite deliberately with dumb insolence. These absurd events reach a climax when Svejk, wearing a Russian uniform, is mistakenly taken prisoner by his own troops.
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