The Bachura Scandal and other stories and sketches
Translated from the Czech by Alan Menhennet
Jaroslav Hašek was a humorist and satirist of a rare order long before he wrote his celebrated novel The Good Soldier Švejk (1921–3). This selection of 32 pre-1914 stories of Prague life – most of them translated into English for the first time – revels in the twisted logic of politics and bureaucracy in the Czech capital which was also an Austrian provincial city.
The sad fate of an idealistic mission to protect the morals of country girls arriving in Prague for the first time; an Austrian returning from abroad, where his left kidney has been replaced by a pig’s, in serious trouble with Customs because the importation of pigs has become illegal; a Prague barber, in full flow against the Turks, the Serbs, the Hungarians, the Eyeties, who is over-enthusiastic with his razor… With unabashed relish, Hašek documents the Disorder Principle in life.
‘These stories are very readable and offer a good cosmic insight into many aspects of Austrian (and Bohemian, Hungarian and Bosnian) bureaucracy, alcoholism and general human folly.’ – David Short, Slovo
‘In these animated translations Hašek emerges as a prankster who carries his “what if” musings to absurdist heights.’ – Fran Handman, New York Times
‘Many of these stories have a fine satirical edge.’ – Colin Johnson, Yorkshire Post
JAROSLAV HAŠEK was born in Prague in 1883. After being sacked by a bank for being absent without leave and dismissed from the editorship of an animal magazine for making a special offer of a pair of werewolves, he became involved with the anarchist movement and led a bohemian life, writing comic short stories and sketches for newspapers. In 1911 he stood unsuccessfully in a Prague election for a party proposing the nationalisation of concierges and ‘rehabilitation’ of animals. Called up in 1915, Hašek was taken prisoner by the Russians, released and allowed to join the Czech Legion, from which he deserted in 1917 to join the Bolsheviks, whose firm discipline held his drinking in check for a time. Returning to the new Czech Republic in 1920 with, bigamously, a Russian wife, his health undermined by alcohol and suffering from depression, he lived in the Bohemian-Moravian highlands working on his masterpiece The Good Soldier Švejk, left unfinished at his death.