Tropos Kynikos: Jaroslav Hašek's The Good Soldier Švejk

   page  
A 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61
62 63 64 65 66 67 68

The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek    63

naive not to see that Švejk's discourse often conveys the narrator's point of view. The exploitation of implicatures is one of these ventriloquist techniques. Let me introduce just one example. When parting with his friend Sapper Vodička, Švejk urges him to seek him out after the war at his habitual pub, "At the Chal­ice." " 'Very well, then, at six o'clock in the evening when the war's over!' shouted Vodička from below. 'Better if you come at half-past six, in case I should be held up somewhere,' answered Švejk. And then Vodička's voice could be heard again this time from a great distance: 'Can't you come at six?' 'Very well then, I'll come at six,' Vodička heard his retreating friend reply" (393; 395). The incongruity of these meticulous arrange­ments with the semantics of the word "war" is quite obvious. Vodička and Švejk ostentatiously fail to fulfill the M.QL, for neither of them can be reasonably sure that he will be at "At the Chalice" at exactly 6:00 p.m. when the war has ended. Yet it seems to me that the interlocutors do not exploit the flouted maxim; rather, what this specific breach implies is the narrator's attitude toward war. Through this linguistic device Hašek strips war of any metaphysical significance or meaning, reducing it to a trifling social event of limited duration (like a soccer game), after which the spectators adjourn to their favorite pub to enjoy beer and a good chat.

There is yet another discursive strategy exploited by Švejk that incon­spicuously violates the normal relations among participants in conversa­tion: his insatiable propensity for telling stories. As Pratt points out, by being able to control the floor for an indefinite period of time, a narrator enjoys an enormous advantage over his listeners. "In ratifying a speaker's request to tell a story we (the hearers)... waive our right to preempt the floor until the storyteller himself offers to give it up (with his narrative coda).... More than nearly any other speech act," she continues, "narra­tives, once begun, are immune to control by other participants in a conversation" (103-4).

Earlier I argued that Švejk's stories have a number of functions in the book; dominating the floor is one of them. And storytelling is perhaps the good soldier's most powerful ploy for disrupting the flow of information and orders toward him. We should notice, first of all, that his reasons for starting a narrative are usually quite weak ("it reminds me of ...," "as a friend of mine used to say ... ," "there was a case like this in Taborska Street..."). Second, some of his stories are not very tellable (i.e., interest­ing to the audience), and Švejk proffers them simply to prevent conversa­tional turn-taking. In some cases they function like this exchange with Dub: "They remained standing in front of each other and Lieutenant Dub was thinking hard what frightful thing he could say to him. But Švejk cut in: 'Humbly report, sir, if only the weather would keep. It's not very hot in the daytime and the nights are really quite pleasant so that this is the most suitable

A 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61
62 63 64 65 66 67 68
   page