Saturday, 6 November 2010

Švejk visits the Barracks at Vršovice

Shortly after the incident with the field altar, the drunken chaplain loses all his money playing blackjack, and is forced to barter Švejk. Inevitably he loses the game, and Švejk is 'won' by Lieutenant Lukáš, in whose service he remains for much of the rest of the book. Lukáš is a sympathetic character whose natural decency is sorely tested by Svejk's transparent foolishness. But he also embodies the hypocritical position of a servant of the Austrian crown at a time when Czechs were defiantly promoting their own national identity:

Lieutenant Lukáš was a typical regular officer of the ramshackle Austrian monarchy.  The cadet school had turned him into a kind of amphibian. He spoke German in society, wrote German, read Czech books, and when he taught the course for one-year volunteers, all of whom were Czechs, he told them in confidence: 'Let's be Czechs, but no-one need know about it. I'm a Czech too.' He equated being a Czech with membership of some sort of secret organization, to which it was wiser to give a wide berth. Otherwise he was a decent man. 

Prior to joining the 91st regiment in České Budějovice, he works as an instructor at the barracks of the 28th Infantry in Vršovice, which is where Švejk visits him to report the arrival of (yet another) young lady at his apartment. For Lukáš is also a ladies' man, who, as well as a canary and Angora cat, boasts a surprisingly wide collection of lingerie...

The barracks were last used by the army in the 1950s, and in the last few years have been transformed into an enormous area court serving four adjacent districts, including Prague 10. You can find a picture of the barracks in their original incarnation here.


Gunn said...

Nice composition and light in this image.

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