Tropos Kynikos: Jaroslav Hašek's The Good Soldier Švejk

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34   The Deserts of Bohemia

bears a striking resemblance to Kafka's traumatic nightmares and something should be done about it.

Seasoned Party apparatchiks got this message immediately and fought back. Replying to Garaudy's report on the conference which appeared in Les Lettres frangaises under the title "Kafka and Prague Spring" Alfred Kurella, the venerable secretary of the poetry section of the Berlin Acad­emy of Arts, did not mince words. "It is inappropriate," he declared au­thoritatively, "to use Kafka's name in an argument that openly opposes genuine Marxist analysis and that, by ostensibly making Kafka contempo­raneous, pursues explicitly political goals."22  I shall not reiterate here the charges of revisionism, falsification of Marxism, and the other heinous apostasies that Kurella leveled against the conference, nor repeat Fischer's, Garaudy's, and Goldstücker's protestations to the contrary. From the van­tage point of today one might concur with Kurt Zimmermann's conclu­sion, drawn in the GDR Party's daily Neues Deutschland in September 1968 after the Warsaw Pact tanks crushed the short-lived Czechoslovak experi­ment in non-Kafkaesque Socialism, about the close spiritual connection be­tween the Liblice event and the subsequent counterrevolution of 1968. "The Kafka conference," he assessed correctly, "was an important mile­stone in the growth of the influence of revisionist and bourgeois ideology" because "on this occasion revisionism appeared in Czechoslovakia for the first time massively and openly."23 Was it not, after all, Garaudy's article in Les Lettres francaises that gave Prague Spring its name?

This introduction of the various political responses to the oeuvres of the two Prague writers is necessary to provide the historical background for Kosík's essay. Yet—and this must be stressed—"Hašek and Kafka" can­not be reduced to a mere commentary on the ideological strife surround­ing its origin. Compared to the Liblice conference papers, which today ap­pear quaint if not downright superannuated, Kosík's text has retained its intellectual punch even though the juxtaposition of the two writers does reflect a particular political struggle of the day. Through the sheer power of proximity, it might have made Kafka more palatable than before to the Party's ideological watchdogs. But, at the same time, it rendered Hašek a new author: a sophisticated penseur projecting a novelistic universe as multivalent and aporetic as Kafka's. The difference between them, Kosík insisted, is a function of their inverse perspectives on the world. And here lies the political effect of Švejk. "Kafka's man is walled into a labyrinth of petrified possibilities, alienated relationships, and the materialism of daily life, all these growing to supernaturally

22 Alfred Kurella, "Jaro, vlaštovky a Franz Kafka" Literární noviny, October 5,1963, p. 8.

23 Quoted in Eduard Goldstücker, "Ten Years after the Kafka Symposium of Liblice," European Judaism, no. 2 (1974), 24.

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