Tropos Kynikos: Jaroslav Hašek's The Good Soldier Švejk

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The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek    35

to supernaturally phantasmagoric dimen­sions, while he constantly and with unrelenting passion searches for the truth. Kafka's man is condemned to live in a world in which the only human dignity is the interpretation of that world; while other forces, beyond the control of any individual, determine the course of world's change." Kafka's antipode, "Hašek, through his work, shows that man, even in a reified form, is still man, and that man is both the object and the producer of reification. He is above his own reification. Man cannot be reduced to an object, he is more than a system" (102; 136).

Kosík's essay has continued to weld together Kafka and Hašek. Their image as Siamese twins breech-delivered is still very much in vogue. It is used abundantly, for example, by Kosík's friend Milan Kundera in his probes into the common core of the Central European novelistic tradition.24  "The world according to Kafka: the bureaucratized universe. The office not merely as one kind of social phenomenon among many but as the essence of the world," Hašek's universe, Kundera asserts, contrary to its appear­ance, is not altogether different. "Like Kafka's Court, Hašek's army is noth­ing but an immense bureaucratic institution, an army-administration in which the old military virtues (courage, perseverance, skill) no longer mat­ter." What separates Kafka's and Hašek's characters, according to Kundera, is their antithetical attitude toward this universe. Adding a Kosíkian twist to the cherished critical platitude about the immense mimetic power of the two Prague writers, Kundera remarks parenthetically:

Those of us who have experienced the totalitarian Communist version of the modern world know that these two attitudes—seemingly artificial, lit­erary, exaggerated—are only too real; we've lived in the realm bounded on one side by K.'s possibility, on the other by Švejk's; which is to say: in the realm where one pole is the identification with power, to the point where the victim develops solidarity with his own executioner, and the other pole the nonacceptance of power through the refusal to take seriously anything at all; which is to say: in the realm between the absolute of the serious— K.—and the absolute of the nonserious—Švejk.25

24 Karel Kosík is the eloquently unnamed "famous Czech philosopher" with whom Kundera strolled through the streets of Prague one morning in the early 1970s after the secret police confiscated the only existing copy of Kosík's manuscript—the fruit of ten years of scholarly labor. Not surprisingly, the "Dichter und Denker" walked along the route of the two Josefs (from Prague Castle to Old Town), but, as if in a sudden brainstorm, just before Charles Bridge they turned left and crossed the river via the next bridge (Milan Kundera, 'A Kidnapped West or Culture Bows Out," Granta, no. n [1984], 114).

25Milan Kundera, "Notes Inspired by 'The Sleepwalkers,' " in The Art of the Novel, trans. L. Asher (New York, 1986), pp. 48-49. For another parallel between Kafka and Hašek, see, e.g., Kundera, "The Czech Wager," New York Review of Books, January 22,1981, p. 21.

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