Prague museum exhibits original manuscript of Hašek's famous 'Švejk'

The handwritten manuscript of Hašek's renowned novel went on display to commemorate 100 years since his death. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 22.03.2023 12:00:00 (updated on 22.03.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

The Museum of Czech Literature in Prague on Tuesday put on display original, handwritten manuscripts of well-known Czech writer Jaroslav Hašek's most famous work.

A renowned work in its original form

The public could view excerpts from "The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk During the World War" – Hašek's best-known work – in Prague’s Bubeneč district. The display, lasting just a day due to fear of damage, commemorated 100 years since Hašek's death as well as a century since the author’s final work was published.

The exhibition also included rarer editions of the novel, including the first notebook version, which many fans saw for the first time.

The original manuscript of Jaroslav Hašek's work (Image:
The original manuscript of Jaroslav Hašek's work (Image: National Memorial Literature)

Tuesday's display was part of the Hašek 100 project, which commemorates the author's best works. It is sponsored by the Czech Senate President Miloš Vystrčil and Minister of Culture Martin Baxa.

A novel that ridicules war

The novel is a humorous, satirical, and anti-war work published in the early 1920s, following the journeys of a Czech soldier named Josef Švejk. The book’s protagonist is an unsophisticated, often clumsy, soldier serving in World War I, in line with the main theme of Hašek’s work, which is the senselessness of warfare. The series is divided into four parts and was left unfinished due to Hašek’s sudden death, aged just 39.

"I would like this novel to be perceived as it deserves – as an extraordinary work of world literature, [and] not just as an anti-militaristic propaganda piece, a joke full of vulgarisms or an illustration of platitudes about Czech slovenliness,” said Minister of Culture Martin Baxa.

Hašek served in World War I, during which he was captured by the Russians. Following the end of the war, Hašek co-operated with the Bolsheviks and Red Army, and he continued to publish short, satirical works. He is said to have written around 1,200 short stories.

The museum additionally showed Hašek's long-unknown short story "Pig History" to the public.

International appeal, even today

Hašek is among the best-known Czech writers of the past century, and holds the accolade of being the most-translated author by international publishers. His cross-border reach is still felt today – several countries across Europe (including Poland, Russia, and Ukraine) have statues of Švejk.

Illustrations of Švejk – made by famous renowned Czech artist Josef Lada – can often be seen in Czech pubs and eateries, as well as in magazines. Hašek himself had a statue devoted to him in Prague’s Žižkov neighborhood.

Tuesday’s exhibition of Hašek’s manuscripts marks the beginning of a series of one-day exhibitions of unusual archives and texts in Czech writing, held by the Museum of Czech Literature. These will run until Sunday, April 9.

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