Jaroslav Hašek is known by readers around the world as the author of The Good Soldier Švejk, one of the greatest comic novels of all time. Not all of his fans are aware of his six year anabasis in Russia, however, which began with his capture on the front lines of Galicia during World War I. The Secret History of my Sojourn in Russia, translated by Charles S. Kraszewski, brings that fascinating period in Hašek’s life to the attention of the English reader. Comprised of fifty-two short stories and other writings from Hašek’s stay in Sovietising Russia, The Secret History collects the Bugulma stories, in which Hašek trains his satirical eye on the infant communist utopia, as well as non-fiction works by Hašek, who played a not insignificant role in the progress of the Soviet Revolution in Siberia, before his return to his native Czechoslovakia in the early 1920s. These include propagandistic pamphlets and newspaper articles, letters, and official scripts dating from his agitation as a communist operative among Austro-Hungarian citizens stranded in the Soviet Union, all of which provide a fascinating context for his good-humoured fiction, which rivals his great novel in rollicking fun.
The Secret History of my Sojourn in Russia presents the reader with fifty-two of the most entertaining, and chilling, examples of his Russian period, containing both humorous fiction and deadly serious propaganda.
Translation of this book was supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic.
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Jaroslav Hašek (1883—1923) is one of the most recognised Czech writers. He is the author of Osudy dobrého vojáka Švejka za světové války [The Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk in the World War, 1921/23]. Left unfinished at his death, it is one of the greatest humorous novels in world literature, centring on the comings and goings of Josef Švejk, dog thief, falsifier of pedigrees, and generally unflappable, beer-soaked goodfellow from Prague. Innocent to the point of pathology, Švejk keeps the reader in a state of uncertainty. Is he an idiot, or the smartest schemer to grace the earth? Before the war, Hašek made his living as a writer of feuilletons for various satirical magazines, and as a reporter who was not above making up interesting stories to boost readership. His inventions of animals for the naturalist periodical Animal World, including an advertisement for werewolves as “companions that can replace the dog in all things” are the stuff of legend. He also once ran for political office, as a candidate of the farcical Party of Moderate Progress within the Bounds of the Law. Called to the colours at the outbreak of the First World War, he took the first occasion to cross the lines into voluntary Russian captivity — despite having been recommended for a medal of valour while serving with the Austrian army. His Russian “sojourn” lasted six years. During his time in Sovietising Russia, he joined the Red Army and the Communist Party. For a while he served as one of the town commandants of the small Siberian city of Bugulma. His experiences during that period of his life resulted in nine of the stories included in this volume, which he began publishing after his return to Czechoslovakia in 1920. Jaroslav Hašek wrote some 1,200 short stories and articles during his short life.
Endorsements and Review Quotes
“There must therefore be a large number of Hašek admirers who would be interested in the 52 stories that make up The Secret History of My Sojourn in Russia, now translated into English.” Barbara Emerson, East-West Review
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