Jaroslav Hašek – The Good Soldier Švejk; part I, chapters 1-6

I usually prefer to wait until I have a bigger chunk of a piece before writing a post about it (sometimes too big, to which my recent lack of posts can attest), but something I noticed about this first section jumped out at me so much that I just had to stick my pretty little nose in here to point it out.

The events of the first section revolve around a plainclothes police officer named Bretschneider fishing for subversives in a nearly empty pub.  He arrests both the titular Švejk and the pub’s owner, Palivec, neither one for saying anything particularly subversive, and accuses both of them of treason.  The primary point of interest here is that the German-named Bretschneider is a plainclothes police officer entrapping Czechs, which anyone old enough to remember the late 80s conflicts at the close of Soviet Union (e.g., not me) will recognize as very similar to the protests at Wenceslas Square.  Video is surprisingly hard to come by, but in the late 1980s, youths’ protests were violently quashed by riot police aided by plainclothes police among the protesters who pointed out particular members of the crowd.

The Good Soldier Švejk‘s first chapter makes it clear that Czechs were in this paranoia-fostering position even before communist control.  As a member of the Austro-Hungarian empire, they were just as under control of foreign powers as Czechoslovakia became in the post-war era, and were just as wary of secret police looking to take their comments out of context.

From one John’s bed to the next. Continue reading