When Jaroslav Hasek published the first volume of his World War I novel, The Good Soldier Svejk, it was such a success that he planned a total of six volumes. He finished volumes two and three and was working on volume four when he died. The three, plus the fragment of four, are published together in the Penguin Classics edition, translated from the Czech by Cecil Parrott.
I have already posted on volumes one, Behind the Lines, and two, At the Front. Volumes three and four are devoted to The Glorious Licking. Svejk approaches the enemy, but has yet to fire a shot. His closeness is so great that he dons the uniform of an escaped Russian prisoner-of-war and is subsequently taken prisoner by his own side. A spy! A turncoat! He is in imminent of danger of hanging but, when Hasek died, Svejk was still very much alive and ready for his next adventure.
Meanwhile, the bureaucracy grinds on. Difficulties are addressed, slowly and with due regard to precedent
Military greatcoats and caps were stored there and the mice bit through them with great confidence and in great security, because it was only a year later that the quartermaster’s office remembered to introduce into the military forces crown-property cats without pension rights, which were entered into the administration records under the heading: ‘Imperial and Royal military store cats.’ The rank of cat was in fact only a revival of an old institution which had been abolished after the war of 1866.
Cats who fail to adequately perform their duties are “hanged by the verdict of a court-martial.”
Hasek continues to deride the military and the polyglot Imperial army, but the last sections of the book are much darker than any that have gone before. The hunger is real, the dead and dying are real, and the war is to go one from three more years although Hasek did not live to tell about it.