June 2, 2023
Anecdotal stories happened to Hasek regularly.  Photo: TASS newsreel

Anecdotal stories happened to Hasek regularly. Photo: TASS newsreel

If Yaroslav Gashek had not written The Adventures of the Good Soldier Schweik, perhaps he would have remained in history as a drunkard and adventurer. In addition, as they said in the Soviet Union, a parasite and a slob. The author of funny feuilletons. But at the beginning of the twentieth century, in all countries of the world there were a lot of such authors who joked for little money. Hasek was also a traveler and a polyglot … But all this is just a touch on the biography of the man who created one of the main novels about the First World War (Hashek himself turned out to be a deserter, then a prisoner of war, and then a “red” agitator among the Czechs).

House-museum of Yaroslav Hasek in the village of Lipnice in the Czech Republic.  Photo: en.wikipedia.org

House-museum of Yaroslav Hasek in the village of Lipnice in the Czech Republic. Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Born in Austria-Hungary, in Prague, in a poor family. After the death of his father, who worked in a bank for some time, the family became even poorer, and rolled: a short study at the gymnasium, many wanderings, job changes, many police calls, poor health and only 39 years of life. At the same time, he wrote more than one and a half thousand stories, mostly in pubs.

Idiotosaurus and fly with 16 wings

Anecdotal stories happened to Hasek regularly. Many became the basis for feuilletons and a novel, and some of the real front-line surnames spilled over into books. One of the everyday situations: he wooed a young lady, and her friend did not agree because of the frivolity of the groom. Gashek tried, tried, and got a certificate of his employment as a journalist. Then he arranged something like gatherings, where all the members of the future family gathered, and up went for beer to return only after three days. With a jug. History is silent on whether the jug was full or empty.

Gashek was also the editor of the Animal World magazine at one time, but he soon got bored, and he began to work according to the method that glorified the play and the film Radio Day: he began to invent fantastic animals and insects. He lost the coast so much that he wrote about the “idiotosaurus” lizard, the discovery of a prehistoric flea and a fly with 16 wings (it cools itself with extra wings like a fan!) Got burned on a flea. It became so interesting to foreign scientific publications that a serious discussion arose, followed by the dismissal of the provocateur. The plot was preserved in The Good Soldier Schweik. Just like the story about the office for the sale of dogs, where outbred puppies were passed off as purebred.

How he sobered up in Siberia

In Russia, Hasek is more known to the Soviet generations. In the Czech Republic, things are a little better: the film based on “Schweik”, released in 1957, is known in the same way as in our country, for example, “Carnival Night”. Hasek’s novel and his early stories gave rise to a special term: sewing. It is used to describe people who take jobs in the system and then are bullied. In general, Schweik is a fig in your pocket. And the attitude towards him is the same as towards a fig – with reproaches about cheap humor and drunken hooliganism.

Frame from the film

Frame from the film “The Good Soldier Schweik” (1957, Czechoslovakia)

Surprisingly, the most sober moments in the behavior of Hasek are associated with post-revolutionary Russia: iron discipline, no hooliganism, work in the office. In Irkutsk, Yaroslav Gashek got his first home in his life. He arrived there in June 1920, as part of the Red Army. He spent only a few months in the capital of Eastern Siberia, but managed to become a deputy of the city council and enter the university, where he studied Chinese.

He was in the political department of the Fifth Army, with which he was in Bashkiria and the Volga region. Already in October, he left both Irkutsk and the house on the street, which today is called Russian, and then it was Degtyarevskaya. Back in 1960, not far from the Angara, there was this wooden house in which Gashek lived with his second wife Alexandra Lvova (having returned to the Czech Republic, he passed her off as a noblewoman from the Lvov family). At the same time, he did not bother to divorce his Czech wife number one. When he was later accused of polygamy, he said that the marriage was according to Soviet laws, and the Czech Republic did not recognize the Soviet state.

Hasek served as before in the political department: he worked with foreigners. There were thousands of prisoners of war in Irkutsk. Perhaps the department was sharpened to identify unreliable people in the city. Hasek’s office was located in the Modern Hotel and was comfortable and quiet. There Gashek could easily edit as many as three newspapers: in German, Hungarian and Buryat. By the way, “Ur”, or “Dawn”, in Buryat is now being published again.

Gashek knew German, and Hungarian, and Russian, and Polish, and Serbian, and Slovak, was able to maintain a conversation in French and even in Gypsy, but it was more difficult with Buryat. So he wrote articles in Russian, after which they were translated. There is a legend that a collection of Hasek’s Siberian stories was published at the same time, but so far not a single copy has surfaced anywhere.

Passion for cucumbers and a glass

And he was also friends with the staff of the Irkutsk magnetic meteorological laboratory – even the photographs remained. Group, where Hasek lies on the floor, pleased with his involvement in such a new service – “meteorology”. The repeatedly executed, judging by newspaper articles, man looked very peaceful.

Yaroslav Gashek in Austrian military uniform (1915) and in the uniform of a Red Army soldier (1920).  Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Yaroslav Gashek in Austrian military uniform (1915) and in the uniform of a Red Army soldier (1920). Photo: en.wikipedia.org

After all, even after desertion from the front and the prisoner of war camp near Kiev, legends about the death of the writer constantly arose. Then he was buried all the time when he was in Red Russia. But all the false funerals, quite exotic, did not take place. The real ones were already in the Czech Republic. In 1923. The newspapers wrote: no, we do not believe. There were too many obituaries. But Hasek really died after a long illness (which one – the biographers are not sure; he himself sometimes said in recent months, “I have cancer”). They say that terrible symptoms did not make him give up his habits: he was still very partial to drinking, and he also ate pickles, which he simply adored (despite the fact that spicy and sour ones were categorically contraindicated for him). And, despite his own words about oncology, he did not believe in a quick death. Already in the last hours he asked the doctor to give him a glass of cognac; the doctor instead served a glass of milk, to which Hasek said offendedly: “You are fooling me! ..”

Tales about him, you can write another sea. But it is better to swim in another sea – the sea of ​​the novel about Schweik.

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