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Schweyk in the Second World War


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A: Bertolt Brecht W: 1941–4 Pf: 1957, Warsaw Pb: 1957 Tr: 1976 G: Com. in 8 scenes, prologue, interludes, and epilogue; German prose and songs S: Prague and the Russian front, 1942–3 C: 12m, 3fSchweyk is a patriotic Czech who deals in dogs in occupied Prague. He spends much of his time in a bar run by an attractive widow, where, feigning simple-minded obedience to authority, he entertains his patriotic comrades by making fools of the German officers who drop by. Whatever scrape he gets into, he manages eventually to talk his way out of it, whether it is arrest by the Gestapo, enforced labour with a ‘Voluntary’ German Labour Service, or detention in a military prison. Despite all his attempts to scheme his way out of it, Schweyk is called up for military service and is sent to fight on the Russian front. Managing to avoid joining his unit, he finds a stray dog near Stalingrad and assures it that ‘the war won't last for ever, any more than the peace’. He then encounters Hitler, who is lost in the snow and is looking for the way back to Germany. Schweyk tells him to go to hell, and his fellow patriots sing a rousing song about the Moldau (the River Vltava, on which Prague stands, and which feeds Czech waters into the German Elbe). In interludes, Hitler is reassured by his cronies that he is loved by the Little Man.

A: Bertolt Brecht W: 1941–4 Pf: 1957, Warsaw Pb: 1957 Tr: 1976 G: Com. in 8 scenes, prologue, interludes, and epilogue; German prose and songs S: Prague and the Russian front, 1942–3 C: 12m, 3f

In 1928 Brecht collaborated with others in adapting Jaroslav Hašek's novel The Good Soldier Schweik (1920–3) for Piscator's production. Here he updates to the Second World War the adventures of the cunning little Czech, a role originally intended for Peter Lorre.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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