The Good Soldier Svejk

Ep 1/2

Monday 16 September



Jaroslav Hasek never lived to see his unfinished 1920s novel become a comedy classic and his anti-hero Svejk become a byword in Czech for idiocy and subversion.

Both he and his creation have asteroids named after them and Bertolt Brecht wrote a play based on his character – Svejk - in the Second World War. Many years later Joan Littlewood was to be influenced by the book when devising Oh, What A Lovely War!

Sam Kelly, the veteran comic actor, takes the title role in Christopher Reason’s dramatisation.

When he seems to celebrate the death of the Archduke Ferdinand, Svejk is arrested and so starts his progress through the ranks of the Austro-Hungarian military.

Is he a certified idiot? Or a clever survivor? He is so enthusiastic about faithfully serving his country that no one can decide whether he is merely an imbecile or is craftily undermining the war effort. His strategy seems to be: obey orders to the absolute letter, no matter what. This unsettles pretty much everyone as he at once points up the ridiculousness of the power structures above him and at the same time is their willing factotum.

The second part will broadcast at the same time tomorrow.

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2008

BBC Radio 4 Extra publicity