Hašek, Švejk and the Poles

Title: Hašek, Švejk and the Poles
Source document: Brno studies in English. 2014, vol. 40, iss. 2, pp. [47]-66
  • ISSN
    0524-6881 (print)
    1805-0867 (online)
Type: Article
License: Not specified license

Notice: These citations are automatically created and might not follow citation rules properly.

The Good Soldier Švejk is often seen as an anti-war book satirising militarism. It is not. It is a consistent piece of fierce and ribald mockery of all those nations and bureaucratic institutions who had stood in the way of Czech nationalism and independence. By chance the Poles happened to be one of these nations. For Hašek and many of his Czech contemporaries the Poles were the very antithesis of the Czechs. During World War I nationally-conscious Czechs hoped that the Orthodox Russians would rescue them from oppression by the Roman Catholic Austrians; the intensely Catholic Poles hoped for exactly the opposite. The Poles revered their aristocrats and their Church whilst the Czechs were egalitarian individualists, a tradition which Masaryk saw as Hussite in its origins. Czech identity was born in those proto-Protestant times and crushed by the Catholic Hapsburgs as part of the Counter-Reformation. This is one reason why there is such savage mockery of individual Poles as soldiers, aristocrats and priests in Hašek's work. The Poles stood for hierarchical forms of social order that Hašek, an anarchic Czech nationalist, detested and which he attacked with an often obscene and scatological humour, particularly the Roman Catholic Church.
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