“Born into the family of a high school teacher, he studied at a commercial academy, and later led a bohemian and vagrant life wandering through Bohemia, Hungary and Galicia. He was jailed briefly for alleged anarchist activities in 1907. Later he worked as the editor in several special-interest journals such as Ženský obzor (Women’s horizon) or Svět zvířat (Animal world), and simultaneously he published stories and interviews from the Prague underworld in various anarchist journals. Throughout his life he wrote several hundred humorous stories published in various journals and newspapers.
“After debauches and orgies there always follows the moral hangover.”
“And somewhere from the dim ages of history the truth dawned upon Europe that the morrow would obliterate the plans of today.”
“The lieutenant’s fooling around again with the telegraph girl at the station,” said the corporal, after he had gone. “He’s been running after her for a fortnight and he’s always frightfully furious when he comes from the telegraph office and he says about her: “She’s a whore. She won’t sleep with me!”
Life in a lunatic asylum: "I really don't know why those loonies get so angry when they're kept there. You can crawl naked on the floor, howl like a jackal, rage and bite. If anyone did this anywhere on the promenade people would be astonished, but there it's the most common or garden thing to do. There's a freedom there which not even Socialists have ever dreamed of.”
“All along the line,' said the volunteer, pulling the blanket over him, 'everything in the army stinks of rottenness. Up till now the wide-eyed masses haven't woken up to it. With goggling eyes they let themselves be made into mincemeat and then when they're struck by a bullet they just whisper, "Mummy!" Heroes don't exist, only cattle for the slaughter and the butchers in the general staffs. But in the end every body will mutiny and there will be a fine shambles. Long live the army! Goodnight!”
The altar was made up of three parts, liberally provided with sham gilt like the whole glory of the Holy Church.
It was not possible without considerable ingenuity to detect what the pictures painted on these three parts actually represented. What was certain was that it was an altar which could have been used equally well by heathens in Zambesi or by the Shamans of the Buriats and Mongols.
Painted in screaming colors it appeared from a distance like a coloured chart intended for colour-blind railway workers. One figure stood out prominently - a naked man with a halo and a body which was turning green, like the parson's nose of a goose which has begun to rot and is already stinking. No one was doing anything to this saint. On the contrary, he had on both sides of him two winged creatures which were supposed to represent angels. But anyone looking at them had the impression that this holy naked man was shrieking with horror at the company around him, for the angels looked like fairy-tale monsters and were a cross between a winged wild cat and the beast of the apocalypse.
Opposite this was a picture which was meant to represent the Holy Trinity. By and large the painter had been unable to ruin the dove. He had painted a kind of bird which could equally well have been a pigeon or a White Wyandotte. God the Father looked like a bandit from the Wild West served up to the public in an American film thriller.
The Son of God on the other hand was a gay young man with a handsome stomach draped in something like bathing drawers. Altogether he looked a sporting type. The cross which he had in his hand he held as elegantly as if it had been a tennis racquet. Seen from afar, however, all these details ran into each other and gave the impression of a train going into a station.”
The time for the doctor’s afternoon round approached. Dr Grünstein went from bed to bed, followed by the medical orderly officer with his notebook.
“Enema and aspirin. Pokorný?”
“Stomach pump and quinine! Kovařík?”
“Enema and aspirin! Koťátko?”
“Stomach pump and quinine!”
And so it went on, one after the other, mercilessly, mechanically, briskly.
Dr Grünstein looked at the new acquisition.
“What’s the matter with you?”
“Humbly report, I’ve got rheumatism!”
In the course of his practice Dr Grünstein had grown accustomed to be gently ironic, which was much more effective than shouting.
“Aha, rheumatism,” he said to Švejk. “Then you’ve got a jolly serious illness. It’s really a coincidence getting rheumatism just at a time when there is a world war on and you’ve got to go to the front. I think that you must be awfully sorry.”
“Humbly report, sir, I am awfully sorry.”
“Well, there you are, you see, he’s awfully sorry. It’s really awfully nice of you that with your rheumatism you’ve not forgotten us just at this particular moment. In peacetime a poor chap like him runs about like a young goat, but as soon as war breaks out he immediately gets rheumatism and suddenly his knees don’t work. Your knees hurt, I suppose?”
”Humbly report, they do, sir.”
“And you can’t sleep a wink the whole night, can you? Rheumatism’s very dangerous, painful and grave illness. We’ve already had good experience with rheumatics here. Strict diet and other treatment of ours have proved very effective. Here you’ll be fit quicker than in Piešany [A famous spa in Slovakia for the treatment of rheumatism' and you’ll march to the front like greased lightning.”
Turning to the hospital orderly he said:
“Write this down: Švejk, strict diet, stomach pump twice a day, enema once a day, and we’ll see how it goes after that. For the time being take him to the consulting room, pump his stomach and when he comes to, give him and enema, but a real good one, until he screams blue murder and his rheumatism gets frightened and runs away.”
Then turning to all the beds the doctor made a speech full on noble and rational moral maxims:
“Don’t imagine that I’m just a bloody halfwit who swallows all your bull. Your tricks don’t rattle me in the least. I know you’re all malingerers and you want to desert from the war. And I’ll treat you as such. I’ve survived hundreds and hundreds of soldiers like you. Masses of people have lain on beds here who had nothing wrong with them at all except that they hadn’t got a soldier’s guts. While their comrades were fighting on the battlefield they thought they’d lounge about in bed, get hospital rations and wait until the war flew by. But they all found they’d made a bloody mistake, and all of you’ll find you’ve made a bloody mistake too. In twenty years time you’ll be still screaming in your sleep, when you dream of how you tried it on with me.”
“Kovařík. Humbly report, I have to have an enema.”
“Good, you’ll still get an enema for the road,” Dr Grünstein decided, “so that you don’t complain that we didn’t give you treatment here. Now, all the patients whose names I’ve read out, fall in and follow the orderly, so that each can get what’s due to him.”
And each one got a handsome dose of what had been prescribed. And if any of them tried to work on those who were executing the orders by means of prayers of threats that they might too once join the medical corps and the executioners might fall into their hands, Švejk at least bore himself with steadfastness.
The next day on his round Dr Grünstein asked Švejk how he was enjoying being in the military hospital.
Švejk answered that it was a fair and high-minded institution. In reward he received the same as the day before plus aspirin and three quinine powders which they dissolved into water so that he should drink them at once.
And not even Socrates drank his hemlock bowl with such composure as did Švejk his quinine, when Dr Grünstein was trying out on him all his various degrees of torture.
When they wrapped Švejk up in a wet sheet in the presence of the doctor his answer to the question how he liked it now was: “Humbly report, sir, it’s like being in a swimming pool or at the seaside.”
“Have you still got rheumatism?”
“Humbly report, sir, it doesn’t seem to want to get better.”
Švejk was subjected to new tortures.
Finally, after inquiries at police headquarters it was ascertained that the man in question was Švejk and after that it was easy to make a search for him. Baroness von Botzenheim went to the Hradčany taking with her her lady companion and her footman with a hamper.
The poor baroness had no idea what it meant for someone to be lying in the hospital of the garrison gaol. Her visiting card opened the prison door for her, in the office they were awfully nice to her, and in five minutes she learnt that “the good soldier Švejk,” whom she was looking for, lay in the third hut, bed number seventeen. She was accompanied by Dr Grünstein himself, who was quite flabbergasted by it. […]
“Everybody in bed! An archduchess is coming here. Don’t anyone dare show his dirty legs outside the bed.”
And not even an archduchess could have entered the ward with such dignity as did Baroness von Botzenheim. After her the whole suite poured in, including even the quartermaster sergeant-major of the hospital who saw in all this the mysterious hand of Accounts Control, which was going to tear him away from his fat feeding trough at the base and deliver him to the tender mercies of the shrapnel somewhere under the barbed wire posts.
He was pale, but Dr Grünstein was even paler. Before his eyes there danced the old baroness’s small visiting card with her title, “Widow of a general,” and everything which could be associated with it like connections, protection, complaints, transfer to the front and other frightful things.
“Here you have Švejk,” he said, endeavoring to preserve an artificial composure and leading the Baroness von Botzenheim to Švejk’s bed. “He behaves with great patience.”
Baroness von Botzheim sat down on the chair prepared for her at Švejk’s bed and said: “Tshech zoldier, goot zoldier, krippl—zoldier iss brafe zoldier. I lof fery moch Tshech Austrian.”
At that she stroked Švejk on his unshaven cheeks and went on:
“I reat eferyzink in ze newspapers, I brink you yum yum, zomzink to bite, to shmoke, to zuck, Tshech zoldier, goot zoldier. Johann, come here!”
Her footman, whose bristly side-whiskers recalled the notorious killer Babinský, dragged a voluminous hamper to the bed, while the old baroness’s companion, a tall lady with a tearful face, sat down on Švejk’s bed and smoothed out his straw pillow under his back with the fixed idea that this was what ought to be done for sick heroes.
In the meantime the baroness drew presents out of the hamper: a dozen roast chickens wrapped up in pink silk paper and tied with a yellow and black silk ribbon, two bottles of a war liqueur with the label: “Gott strafe England” [“May God punish England.”] On the back of the label was a picture of Franz Joseph and Wilhelm clasping hands as though they were going to play the nursery game: “Bunny sat alone in his hole. Poor little bunny, what’s wrong with you that you can’t hop!”
Then she took out of the hamper three bottles of wine for the convalescent and two boxes of cigarettes. She set out everything elegantly on the empty bed next to Švejk’s, where she also put a beautifully bound book, Stories from the life of our Monarch, which had been written by the present meritorious chief editor of our official Czechoslovak Republic who doted on old Franz. Packets of chocolate with the same inscription, “Gott strafe England,” and again with pictures of the Austrian and German emperors, found their way to the bed. On the chocolate they were no longer clasping hands; each was acting on his own and turning his back to the other. There was a beautiful toothbrush with two rows of bristles and the inscription “Viribus unitis,” so that anyone who cleaned his teeth should remember Austria. An elegant and extremely useful little gift for the front and the trenches was a manicure set. On the case was a picture showing shrapnel bursting and a man in a steel helmet rushing forward with fixed bayonet. And underneath it was written in German: “For God, Emperor and Fatherland!” There was a tin of biscuits without a picture on it but with a verse in German instead, together with a Czech translation on the back:
Austria, thou noble house, Thy banners wide unfurl! Thy flags shall flutter proud on high. Austria shall never die!
The last gift was a white hyacinth in a flowerpot.
“Our father, which art in heaven, hallow be Thy name. Thy kingdom come … Pardon me, your ladyship, it’s not right. I mean to say: O God our father in heaven, bless for us these gifts that we may enjoy them thanks to Thy goodness. Amen.”
After these words he took a chicken from the bed and starting to devour it under the horrified gaze of Dr Grünstein.
“Ach, how he enjoys it, poor soldier,” the old baroness whispered enthusiastically to Dr Grünstein. “He’s certainly well again and can go to the battlefield. I’m really very glad that my gifts stand him in such good stead.”
Then she walked from bed to bed, distributing cigarettes and chocolate creams. When she came back again to Švejk after her promenade, she stroked his hair, said in German: “God protect you all!” and went out of the door with her whole escort.
The war liqueur and the three bottles of wine had also disappeared. The packets of chocolate and the box of biscuits were likewise lost in the patients’ stomachs. Someone had even drunk up the bottle of nail-polish which was in the manicure set and eaten the toothpaste which had been enclosed with the toothbrush.
Translated by Cecil Parrott in Jaroslav Hašek: The Good Soldier Švejk and his Fortunes in the World War (Penguin Books).
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