Jaroslav Hasek

Jaroslav Hašek (1883-1923), a Czech humorist and satirist, became well-known mainly for his world-famous novel The Good Soldier Svejk, which has been translated into sixty languages, but he wrote some 1,500 other stories. He was a journalist, bohemian, and practical joker.

Hašek was born April 30, 1883 in Prague, 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, but when he was captured by the Russians during World War I, he married again in Russia. He became a Bolshevik commissar, but returned again to Prague after the war.

Before the war, in 1911, he wrote his first stories about Svejk, but it was only after the war in his glorious novel that Svejk was to become the idiot savant who joked about the war as if it were a tavern brawl. By this time Hašek had become gravely ill and dangerously overweight. He no longer wrote, but dictated the chapters of Svejk from his bedroom in the town of Lipnice, where he unexpectly died January 3, 1923, not yet 40 years old.

Since his death, many of Hašek's short stories have been collected and published in book form.


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