Behind the Lines (paperback)
series: Modern Czech Classics
paperback, 110 pp., 1. edition
translation: Corner, Mark
published: august 2016
recommended price: 280 czk
The collection of short stories entitled Behind the Lines: Bugulma and Other Stories draws on Hašek’s experience from revolutionary Russia. In a manner similar to that employed in his caricatures of the pre-war monarchy, he satirically captures events of the Bolshevik revolution from the perspective of a Red commissar in a combination of grotesque humor and sarcasm. Historical events serve merely as part of the historical mystification. Hašek presents them as he perceived them as a man and participant in historical events. He depicts them primarily as simple and human, pushing his critical view into the background.
On the border of a comic exaggeration and a realistic depiction, an amusing story about a forgotten Tartar town of Bugulma unfolds featuring the Soviet commander of the Tver Revolutionary Regiment, drunk Yerokhimov, and Comrade Gašek, the Commanding Officer of Bugulma. Employing humor and exaggeration, Hašek demonstrates the zealotry of the revolutionary period as well as the stupidity and simple human insecurity of authoritarians.
The collection of short stories, Behind the Lines, also includes other sketches by Hašek, written at the same time.
As Mark Conner points out in his interview in The Prague Post, “One important thing was to bring to life Hašek as a short-story writer, and even the short story as the medium at which Hašek excelled.” After reading this sample, I’m inclined to agree. I also want to mention my enjoyment of the two books I’ve read so far from the Karolinum Press, Charles University (the other book was Summer of Caprice by Vladislav Vančura, also translated by Mark Corner). After Švejk, I have trouble imagining Hašek without accompanying illustrations and the ones provided in this volume by Jiři Grus are delightful.
Dwight (A Common Reader , Friday, November 09, 2012)