Jaroslav Hasek
AUTHOR

Jaroslav Hasek

Jaroslav Hašek (April 30, 1883 - January 3, 1923) was a Czech humorist and satirist who became well-known mainly for his voluminous novel The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk, translated by now into sixty languages. He had also wrritten some 1,500 other stories. He was a journalist, bohemian, and practical joker. Hašek was born in Praha (Prague), Austria-Hungary (now in the Czech Republic), the son of middle-school math teacher Josef Hašek and his wife Kateřina. Poverty forced the family, with three children -- another son Bohuslav, three years Jaroslav's younger, and an orphan cousin Maria -- to move often, more than ten times during his infancy. He never knew a real home, and this rootlessness clearly influenced his life of wanderlust. When he was thirteen, Hašek's father died, and his mother was unable to raise him firmly. The teenage boy dropped out of high school at the age of 15 to become a druggist, but eventually graduated from business school. He worked briefly as a bank officer, but later preferred the liberated profession of a writer. Hašek made fun of everyone and everything, including himself. He cared nothing for style or schools of literature -- he considered his work a job, not art -- and wrote spontaneously. He made jokes not only on paper, but also in real life, angering many who considered him lazy, irresponsible, a vagabond, a drunkard, etc. In 1910 he married Jarmila Mayerová, herself an author. In 1911, he wrote his first stories about Švejk. He was a keen observer of human affairs using his material as a newspaperman, entertainer, war correspondent, political outreach and propaganda writer (for ultimately irreconcilable parties to the WWI and Russian Civil War), among other things, and not an anarchist first and foremost. As for his military associations and exploits, during WWI Hašek was first a combatant of the Austro-Hungarian army. After crossing over to the other side on the Russian front (as did tens of thousands of Czechs), he spent seven months in the POW camp in Totskoye where he contracted typhus. Sent back to Kiev, he was a reporter for the Čechoslovan magazine as a member of the Czecho-Slovak Legions there and participated in the famous battle at Zborov. After the collapse of the Russian Provisional Government's summer offensive in Ukraine, disagreeing with the Legions leadership's decision to transport the troops to France by going to Vladivostok in the east, he joined the retreating Russian Corps of Colonel Mikhail Artemyevich Muravyov who wanted to continue the war and push west with the help of the Czecho-Slovak Legions after coming to support them at Zborov. Muravyov ultimately sided with the Social Revolutionaries and Anarchists who also opposed Lenin's Brest-Litovsk peace treaty. When he was named the commander of the eastern front, his Corps were expected to fight the Czecho-Slovak Legions in the Volga region. In early July of 1918, while Hašek was his courier communicating with the Czecho-Slovak Legions in Bugulma, Muravyov left the front open to join the Left SRs and Anarchists in the ill-fated attempt to tople the Bolsheviks in Moscow. When Muravyov returned to Simbirsk in the Free Volga Soviet Republic -- that was controled by the SRs and Anarchists -- as the Supreme Commander of its Army, he was shot resisting arrest in a setup by the Bolsheviks. The Civil War began in earnest. Two weeks later the Czecho-Slovak Legions issued an arrest warrant for Jaroslav Hašek. The following events would make for a grand Hollywood "eastern" movie. On August 6, 1918 the Legions captured the Tzar's treasure in the battle for Kazan, while Trotsky's armored train rushed to the region from Moscow. The Legions took the treasure on ships to Samara. In mid-August Hašek was ordered by Trotsky's reconnaissance troops leader, Larisa Reisner, to keep an eye on the treasure and report via the Bolshevik underground. With the SRs and Anarchist defeated at the hands of the Bolsheviks, eradicating the vanquished with whom he's been working on one hand, and the Legions seeking his arrest and aiming for Vladivostok instead of going west on the other hand, Hašek didn't have much choice. He was given another chance by the Bolsheviks and made the best of it. Due to his literacy and knowledge of languages, he was quickly put to work cranking out propaganda for the Fifth Army of the Red Army among the Bashkir, Mordvin, Chinese, Volga Germans and other ethnic groups. He even became a Deputy Military Commander of the town of Bugulma and the Chief of the 5th Army's International Section of its Political Department. His multilingual propaganda work for the Communists during the Russian Civil War lasted almost three years. In December 1920 he returned to Prague to be shunned by his former friends and associates. He started working on his masterpiece, which is a result of unusually rich, varied and uncommon life experiences. [The last five paragraphs have been gleaned from the novel Osudy humoristy Jaroslava Haška v říši carů a komisařů i doma v Čechách (The Fateful Adventures of Jaroslav Hasek in the Empire of the Czars and Commissars And Even at Home in the Czechlands) by Pavel Gan who based it on a number of his contextual studies about Jaroslav Hašek.] In August of 1921 Hašek arrived in Lipnice nad Sázavou where he wrote Books Two, Three, and the unfinished Book Four. Toward the end he was dangerously overweight. Before the New Year's eve of 1922 he became gravely ill. In the end he no longer wrote, but dictated the chapters of Švejk from his bedroom at Invald's pub. On January 3rd, 1923, he died in the cottage he bought shortly before that across the street from the pub where he worked on his masterpiece. He is buried around the corner, at the Lipnice Old Cemetery.
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