From the interview:
And to explain a little bit to people who don’t know Hašek – he had the most extraordinary adventures during the First World War, travelling first in the Austro-Hungarian army, then in the Czechoslovak Legions, then in the Red Army, from Central Europe all the way to Siberia. There must have been a lot of research needed to work out where he went and when.
“Absolutely. The first stage of the trip I did the easy way. I followed Švejk, and, by 2010, I knew exactly where those places were. So I actually did it. That stage ended in Zhovtantsi in Ukraine, just north-east of Lviv, by the river Bug. So that was easy. It was more difficult afterwards when I decided to follow what presumably would have been Švejk’s route, which was Hašek’s own odyssey through the Ukraine, in captivity in Russia, back in the Czechoslovak Legion. He crossed over to the Bolsheviks under circumstances that are disputed even to this day. He spent two years in the Red Army and then returned to Prague where he gave up politics, it seems, and started to drink and write Švejk. So I followed Hašek from various sources in Russia and based on these sources I made an itinerary, which roughly, I think, corresponds to Hašek’s own trip – as far as Irkutsk and beyond Lake Baikal to a place called Gusinoye Ozero, which is almost in Mongolia. And then I started to retreat to Europe, also by train, to Narva in Estonia, and back through Germany – Berlin – to Prague.”
And when you were travelling to all these places, did you find that people in the towns you were visiting knew about the connection with Hašek and Švejk?
“Almost everyone knew who Švejk was and who Hašek was, almost without exception – from Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, but they were more bemused by the fact that I, as a Norwegian, was actually travelling in the footsteps of Jaroslav Hašek. A lot of people just couldn’t understand it. They shook their heads. They asked where I was from. From Norway. ‘Ah, very cold,’ they said, even in Siberia.”
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