The Long History of Schweyk in the Second World War from the Novel to the Stage (1920-1943)


  • Mara Fazio



Between 1920 and 1923, Jaroslav Hašek’s unfinished satirical novel The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk, was published in instalments in Czechoslovakia. Set during World War I, the novel follows Švejk, an eccentric character from Prague who wanders from one regiment to another without ever reaching the front. Thanks to his excessive obedience and idiotic de- meanour, Švejk survives the conflict and unveils the maladministration of the Austro-Hunga- rian army as well as the absurdity and atrocities of the war. In 1926, Hašek’s novel was transla- ted into German and encountered great success. Later on, Piscator decided to adapt the novel for the stage. However, its rights had already been acquired in 1927 by Max Brod (a Czech wri- ter and Kafka’s friend), who wrote a stage adaptation with the satirist Hans Reimann. Piscator disliked their work. Therefore, building on a scenic invention – that is, staging the novel on a treadmill –, Piscator called around him a collective of authors (Brecht, Gasbarra, Lania) who adapted the novel for the stage drawing directly from Hašek’s novel and, partially, from Brod and Reimann’s adaptation. However, because Piscator did not hold the rights to the novel, Brod and Reimann’s names featured on the playbill of the new adaptation. This engendered a controversy between Brod and Piscator, which focused on a comparison between dramatic theatre and epic theatre, exemplified by their adaptations of Hašek’s novel. In 1943, amid the Second World War, Brecht lived as exile in the United Stated: he then returned to Hašek’s novel and wrote a play transposing Švejk’s adventures to the Second World War.

Author Biography

Mara Fazio

Mara Fazio è studiosa del teatro europeo del Settecento, Ottocento e Novecento in un’ottica storico-comparatistica. Ha insegnato Discipline dello spettacolo alla Sapienza Università di Roma. Tra le sue pubblicazioni: Il mito di Shakespeare e il teatro romantico (Bulzoni 1993); François Joseph Talma. Primo divo (Leonardo Arte 1999); Lo specchio il gioco e l’estasi. La regia teatrale in Germania dai Meininger a Jessner (Bulzoni 2003); La fabrique du théâtre (a cura di P. Frantz, Desjonquères 2010); Les Arts du spectacle et la référence antique dans le théâtre européen (a cura di P. Frantz e V. De Santis, Garnier 2018); L’orecchio e l’occhio. Lo spettacolo teatrale, arte dell’ascolto e arte dello sguardo (a cura di P. Frantz, Artemide 2019). Per Laterza è autrice di Regie teatrali. Dalle origini a Brecht (2006) e di Voltaire contro Shakespeare (2020).


2022-06-28 — Updated on 2022-06-28


How to Cite

Fazio, M. (2022). The Long History of Schweyk in the Second World War from the Novel to the Stage (1920-1943). Status Quaestionis, (22).