Svejk weekends following circuitous footsteps of literary character

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The Good Soldier Svejk is one of the best known and best loved of Czech literary creations. Enlisted into the Austrio-Hungarian Army during the Great War, Svejk manages by a kind of subversive idiocy to resist actually serving, and spends long periods wandering about in South Bohemia. Now fans can follow in his circuitous footsteps, during a series of "Svejk weekends".

A Josef Svejk look-alike in World War One uniform and distinctive cap appeared with a group of musicians last Friday, at the start of the first of three Svejk weekends. It began, as of course did Svejk's own adventures, in Prague, with participants later boarding a train for South Bohemia, where the bumbling conscript really started wandering.

Richard Hasek is the grandson of Svejk's creator, Jaroslav Hasek.

"The Svejk weekends are a great idea. They really do follow the anabasis of the Good Soldier Svejk. As he put it when he drank away all his money in Tabor, I had an accident...Then they sent him off to Ceske Budejovice, but of course he ended up in Putim. From where, as readers will know, he went in a circle back to Putim."

And Putim - along with Pisek and Steken - is the focus of this coming weekend's Svejk Weekend, the second of three. Visitors will take part in a reconstruction of his "march", accompanied by music and refreshments, liquid and otherwise. The final weekend will then be held in Ceske Budejovice.

What is it about the Good Soldier Svejk that makes him so popular around the world, over 80 years after the book was published?

"It's the timelessness of the humour. The book is episodic, so you can just dip into it. And humour is good for you. An Icelandic professor visited us in Lipnice, where we run the pub where the book was actually written. He was talking about depression in northern European states and told me they broadcast the Svejk stories on TV and the radio - and that cures people's depression through humour."