Monday, 6 July 2009

The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek

A must for any literary booze blog, here's the legendary toper, practical joker and Czech hero, Jaroslav Hašek.

The Good Soldier Švejk was a present for my 18th birthday from my parents and I therefore read it at the start of a period in my life I may look back on one day as the ‘pub years’. Švejk himself is a national icon, and in Hašek’s satire on the Great War there are copious references to drinking. I also have Cecil Parrott's translation to thank for adding the phrase 'thoroughly pickled' to my drinker's lexicon.

Flicking through the book at random, I find this episode where a boozy chaplain knocks out a whole bottle of rum he’s taken off a corporal:

“Jesus Mary,” gasped the corporal, observing that after a thorough swig half the bottle had disappeared.
“Oh you rogue, you!” said the chaplain, smiling and winking knowingly at the volunteer, “You’re even taking the name of the Lord in vain into the bargain The Lord must punish you for this.”
The venerable father again took a swig from the flat bottle and giving it to Švejk gave the imperious order: “Bottoms up!”
“War is war,” Švejk said good-humouredly to the corporal as he returned him the empty bottle, the emptiness being confirmed by a strange glint in the corporal’s eyes such as can only appear in a mental patient.

However, my favourite reference to drinking in the book has to come from a Colonel Shröder complaining about the capacity of the new intake to the Austrian army:

“...And the younger officers don’t even know how to hold their drink. It’s not yet twelve o’clock and around this table as you see there are five people drunk already. There were times when we sat for two days and the more we drank the more sober we were. We went on pouring beer, wine and liqueurs into ourselves without stop. Today there’s no longer the real military spirit...”

The drinker's lament: things just aren't what they used to be...


  1. ". . . it is with a great relief and pleasure that we are hereby dutifully reporting that Book Two and Book(s) Three&Four of our new translation of Jaroslav Hašek's The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk During the World War are available for sale as paperbacks at this link:"

    We hope this announcement finds you in good health and disposition and hungry for more adventures of the good soldier ... after all these years. For more information on the Svejk phenomenon, visit

  2. Well I'm in fine health and disposition thank you very much! Thank you also for the link. I shall look out for the new translation.