“Good Soldier Swejk” by Jaroslav Hasek

Good Soldier Swejk” is a satire novel written by Jaroslav Hasek. The book is unfinished; however, it is still interesting to read. I’m not going to tell you the whole plot, but I’ll try to summarize the general theme of the book.

The story begins with the news of assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the beginning of the First World War. The main character, Joseph Swejk, who sells stolen dogs, gets involved in a chain of events and is sent directly to the front lines. During the whole story he constantly gets himself in trouble and finds himself in different kinds of situations. The author wrote the book to show how a war influences different layers of society and people. One should mention here that the main character is considered to be a complete idiot by the others. However, his appearance is just this way of getting out of trouble and avoid potential consequences. He can do extraordinary and crazy things, and never be punished for it. In addition, many times he is the only one who actually makes good decisions and does reasonable and well-thought out things. The author himself once mentioned that Swejk isn’t an idiot. Thus, it appears that this figure was created in order to show the main vices of the society.

The book inspired a lot of authors in different countries. It is one of the most translated Czech novels, and it will remain popular for a long time. Highly rated by critics, it is one of the first and greatest anti-war books.

All in all, I want to say that this book is very interesting,the characters are bright and striking, and the plot is well-developed. It made a great impression on me. I highly recommend it to you if you want to learn more about that time period.

“Hobbit” by Tolkien

In one of my previous blogs about King Aurthur and his knights, I mentioned the name of J. R. R. Tolkien. Today I would like to talk about this author and his books. J. R. R Tolkien was a university professor and a very talented writer who wrote many books in different genres. Some of his books, such as “Beowulf”, are influenced by the old English literature and Scandinavian mythology. Others reflect his experiences from the World War 1. Tolkien is also considered to be one of the founders of the fantasy genre. He wrote numerous books that are very popular nowadays. Today, I would like to talk about his book “Hobbit, or There and Back Again”.

The story tells us about an adventure of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who lived in the Middle Earth. One time, an old friend of his family, wizard Gandalf, visited him. Bilbo didn’t like unexpected guests and did his best to make him leave as soon as possible. However, the wizard tricked him and left a sign on his front house door. Later in the evening, a group of dwarfs came to Bilbo. Gandalf told them that the hobbit was a burglar, whom they needed for their dangerous journey to the Lonely Mountain. The dwarfs were looking for a treasure in the mountain that was guarded by a fierce dragon. Bilbo decided to take a chance and join the dwarfs in their adventure. During their journey, Bilbo and his friends ran into many dangerous situations, fought many battles, and finally found the hidden treasures. During this expedition Bilbo completely changed as a person. He was no longer a small hobbit afraid of the world, but a warrior ready to face any difficulties that came his way.

All in all, I want to say that the book described above is a good introduction to the fantasy genre and the Middle-earth universe,created by Tolkien. Even though it is considered a children’s book it is loved by millions of adults all over the world. If you like fairytales and adventures, you should definitely read it.

Medieval Literature

There is no doubt that many people are familiar with the name of King Arthur. A lot of us have heard stories about his adventures. Unfortunately, not very many people have ever read books about him. One of the main reasons is that those books are written in old English, and they are hard to read. Today, I would like to tell you about one of these books, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, written by an unknown author and adopted to modern English by Tolkien. This book is not about King Arthur; it is about his loyal knight Gawain, but it is still interesting and worth reading.

The plot begins in Camelot during the New Year celebration. The feast is on, and everyone, including King Arthur, is drinking, eating and laughing. However, in the middle of the repast, a person completely dressed in green came into the hall. He had a huge axe with him. He challenged people to hit him with his axe but said that the next year he would do the same thing to his opponent. The one who responded to the challenge was a young sir Gawain. He hit the man in green and chopped off his head; but the knight stood up, picked up his head, and told Gawain to find him the next year in the Green Chapel.  A year had passed, and the young knight started his way to the destination. He searched for a Green Chapel for a long time, and, by the time he finally figured out his way, the day was over.  The knight decided to spend the night at the nearby castle. The owner of the castle agreed to accept Gawain for a few nights. Bertilak (the host) also offered a bargain to the young knight: he would give Gawain whatever he catches on his hunt, and the knight would give him whatever he found in the castle. On the first day, while Bertilak was hunting, his wife tried to seduce the young knight.  Gawain was an honorable man, and he didn’t give in. The only thing she could do was to give him a kiss. When the noble man came back from his hunt, he gave Gawain the animals, and Gawain gave him a kiss. The same thing happened during the next two days. Gawain kept exchanging killed animals for kisses, but he never told the owner where he found the kisses.  He also didn’t give the owner a green ribbon that was given to him by Lady Bertilak.  It was finally time for him to leave. Gawain went to the Green Chapel ready to die. However, the Green Knight didn’t hit him with his axe for the first and second tries, and on the third try, he slightly touched Gawain’s neck. It angered the young knight, and he was ready to attack the Green Knight because he was playing with him. However, the man in green took off his mask, and Gawain realized that it was the owner of the castle. Bertilak told him that he didn’t hit him on the first two tries because Gawain kept his end of the bargain and honestly gave him what he found in the castle. He scratched him the third time because he had hidden the green ribbon from him. What was even more important, it was Lady Bertilak’s plan from the very beginning, and it wasn’t the lady, but Morgan le Fay in disguise. Luckily, Gawain survived and went back to Camelot’s safety.

Overall, this book is a good example of what medieval literature looks like. It has a good plot, which describes how an honest and honorable knight should behave, and, at the same time, tells about a great adventure. One should also mention that Tolkien did a great job adapting it to the modern English.

“The Green Mile” by Stephen King.

When people hear the name of Stephen King, they usually associate it with horror stories. However, this author wrote books in other genres. Unfortunately, people barely know them, even though films based on them, are very popular. Today, I would like to tell you about Stephen King’s “The Green Mile”.

The plot of the story begins in the nursing home where the main character, Paul Edgecombe, spends his final days. He tells a story that happened to him a long time ago in the days when he was working. When he was young, he worked as a supervisor of the death row’s block. One day, an incredibly huge prisoner whose name was John Coffey, was brought to his block. He was sentenced to death for killing two girls. However, soon Paul figured out that John was innocent; moreover, it appeared that he had incredible healing powers with which he helped the main character to get rid of his urinary tract infection. It is also important to mention two other characters: a new employee Percy who was the governor’s wife nephew and another prisoner, called “Wild Bill” by the guards, who was an insane murderer. Percy was a wicked and cruel person. Once, he stepped on Mr. Jingle, a mouse that lived in prison and was considered by guards as a small pet. However, Coffey used his powers and saved the animal. One time, Paul with his friends smuggled John out of prison, so he could help to heal their boss’ dying wife. They successfully did it, but when they returned to prison, John caught Percy and passed the disease on to him. Percy became mad and killed Bill, who appeared to be the one who committed the crimes, for which Coffey was sentenced to death. After this accident, Percy was put into asylum, and John’s execution took place. Paul and the guards cried during it because they knew they were executing an innocent person. A lot of years went by, but Paul and Mr. Jingles were still alive. They never got sick after those events. Paul even survived a terrible bus crash that killed his wife, and right after the crash he saw Coffey’s ghost. In the end of the story, the author tells us that Mr. Jingles died after about 60 years of his life, but Paul was still alive, wondering when his time will come.

In conclusion, I want to say that this book is one of the best books written by Stephen King. In the book, he touched upon many philosophical questions such as what is life and what is death, and what is right, and what is wrong. This book left a great impression on me, and I strongly recommend it to you.

 

Another Dystopian Book

In one of my previous posts I mentioned the growing popularity of dystopia genre books. I also described one book that helped shape this genre as we know it nowadays. Today I would like to tell you about another famous dystopian book of 20th century “Brave New World” written by Aldous Huxley.

The book describes a technically developed society. However, from the beginning, the author makes it clear that it is far from perfect. People who live there no longer have families or relationships. The population of the planet is strictly controlled by the World’s government, and people are produced artificially in labs. The scientists found different ways of modifying the embryo development and growth, and they can genetically improve or limit physical and mental capabilities if needed. Thus, the society is divided into groups depending on the method being used. The most prestigious and elite cluster is Alphas, and the others consist of Betas, Gammas, and Deltas, respectively. One of the main characters Bernard is Alpha; however, his physical complexion is very different from the rest of his group. He is weaker and smaller than others. That’s why he has a lot of inferiority complexes and is very self-conscious. During one of his vacations, he and his girlfriend travel to an Indian reservation. People who live there refuse to follow the rules of the new society and continue living under the old standards. They hunt, grow food for themselves, and make families. At the reservation, the main character finds a young man, John, who knows how to read and speak English. Bernard brings him back to the society. John has high hopes for a new society, but they are ruined very quickly. He sees that modern people no longer understand the importance of love and families. John or savage (his nickname) is disappointed in everything around him. He refuses to accept new norms and attempts to resist the rules. However, numerous tries, he gives up and kills himself.

All in all, I want to say that this book is a perfect example of the dystopian literature where the author shows how people’s views and moral basics change over time. He does a great job by showing the clash of the new society and old ethical views represented by John. Overall, the book made a great impression on me and left me with controversial thoughts about who is right – the savage or a new society.

 

Absurdist Literature

There are a lot of beautiful genres in the world of literature. Unfortunately, one of the most interesting and fascinating genres, absurdism, is mostly underestimated and unknown to a wide audience. Today I would like to tell you about a short story written by Franz Kafka, “Country Doctor”.

The narration begins in a doctor’s house in the countryside. He receives a call on a late winter night to come and check on a sick villager. The doctor is convinced that there is nothing wrong with the patient, but his sense of duty makes him leave his house to visit a sick person. He goes outside and, to his surprise, finds a stranger standing in front of his house with a beautiful pack of horses and a sturdy sleigh. He offers to take the doctor to his patient right away. When the doctor arrives to the villager’s house, he realizes that the person has a very bad wound. The doctor does not have any medicine or equipment to help him. However, the villager’s relatives refuse to let him go and demand to help the patient. They strip him off all his clothes and lock him in the room with the patient. Finally, he escapes the house, but he is completely naked. Outside, he finds the same pack of horses, but, to his utter surprise, the young and strong horses turned into old nags. In the end, we see a picture of the naked doctor slowly heading back home on foot followed by a laughing crowd.

Kafka’s style is very complicated and twisted. The usage of allegories and open-ended sentences result in multiple interpretations of this story. I believe that the story shows us an overworked and tired person who is burned out by his never-ending hard work. He slowly turned into a puppet manipulated by people around him, and he doesn’t have any will left to resist and fight back. He is physically and mentally broken.

In my opinion, it is the complexity of the writing style that captures the reader’s attention and makes this story particularly interesting. While this genre is not easy to understand and hard to follow, I would like to recommend this book to you as a great introduction to the absurdism.

One of the First Dystopia Books

Lately dystopia books have gained a lot of popularity. However, very few people realize that the origin of this genre goes back all the way to the 16th century.   but the writing was a lot different from what we call an antiutopian book today. The books that gave a modern spin to this genre were created at the beginning of 20th century. Thus, today I would like to discuss the novel “We” written by Yevgeny Zamyatin, which is considered to be one of the dystopia classics.

The book describes a totalitarian society, where everyone is being watched, and the concept of privacy does not exist. People live behind the Green wall, which separates their state from the other world covered with forests. Citizens live in huge glass buildings and are constantly watched by their government. There is no place for families or love in their lives. People don’t have names. All they have is serial numbers. One should mention that the society described in the book has very advanced technologies. During the whole book, it is said that they are building a spaceship named “Integral” to conquer the space. The main character is one of the people who are building it. He is proud of what he is doing. However, one day he meets a woman with a number I-303 who totally changes his life It appears that she is one of the leaders of a rebellion group, which plans to destroy the Wall and reunite people from the outside with the rest of society.  The main character is in panic and wants to tell everything to the government, but he can’t do it. There is something inside him that doesn’t let him do it. He understands that there is something wrong with their system and society. He helps his friend with her plan, and people and animals get inside the State territory. In fact the government makes sure that people undergo routine “maintenance” surgeries during which their emotions are completed wiped away. Unfortunately, after the routine surgery, the main character loses all of his emotions.  He no longer remembers his friend, and he feels obligated to report her to the government.   The government captures and tortures I-303, but she dies without telling her secrets. However, it is obvious that the rebellion will continue, and the government won’t be able to stop it.

All in all, I want to say that the book is well written and has a great storyline. It provides a great explanation of a totalitarian society and its negatives outcomes.   However, it doesn’t tell us whether the rebellion will succeed or will be destroyed thus, leaving plenty of room for our imagination.