Karel Capek

Karel Čapek,  (born Jan. 9, 1890, Malé Svatoňovice, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary [now in Czech Republic]—died Dec. 25, 1938, Prague, Czech.), Czech novelist, short-story writer, playwright, and essayist.

The son of a country doctor, Čapek suffered all his life from a spinal disease, and writing seemed a compensation. He studied philosophy in Prague, Berlin, and Paris and in 1917 settled in Prague as a writer and journalist. From 1907 until well into the 1920s, much of his work was written with his brother Josef, a painter, who illustrated several of Karel’s books.

Almost all Čapek’s literary works are inquiries into philosophical ideas. The early short stories—in Zářivé hlubiny (with Josef, 1916; “The Luminous Depths”), Krakonošova zahrada (with Josef, 1918; “The Garden of Krakonoš”), and Trapné povídky (1921; in Money and Other Stories, 1929)—are mainly concerned with man’s efforts to break out of the narrow circle of destiny and grasp ultimate values. Another series of works presents Čapek’s “black utopias,” showing how scientific discoveries and technological progress tempt man into titanic rebellions. Thus, in the play R.U.R.: Rossum’s Universal Robots (published 1920, performed 1921), a scientist discovers the secret of creating humanlike machines that are more precise and reliable than human beings. Years later the machines dominate the human race and threaten it with extinction, though at the last moment it is saved. For this play Čapek invented the word “robot,” deriving it from the Czech word for forced labour.

Other works, following the pattern of R.U.R., include the novel Továrna na absolutno (1922; The Absolute at Large); Krakatit (1924; An Atomic Phantasy); and Válka s mloky (1936; The War with the Newts).

In another vein, Čapek’s comic fantasy Ze života hmyzu (with Josef, 1921; The Insect Play) satirizes human greed, complacency, and selfishness, emphasizing the relativity of human values and the need to come to terms with life. His faith in democracy made him support his friend Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and write a biography of him. The quest for justice inspired most of the stories in Povídky z jedné kapsy and Povídky z druhé kapsy (both 1929; published together as Tales from Two Pockets).


The Editors of The Encyclopædia Britannica. 6 June 2014. Karel Čapek. Retrieved on 19 July 2014  from here


 

Apocryphal Tales

Cross Roads

Tales from Two Pockets

Talks with the T.G. Masaryk

Toward the Radical Center

Capek, Karel - Apocryphal Tales (Catbird, 1997) Capek, Karel - Cross Roads (Catbird, 2002) Capek, Karel - Tales from Two Pockets (Catbird, 1994) Capek, Karel - Talks with T. G. Masaryk (Catbird, 1995) Kussi, Peter (ed.) - Toward the Radical Center (Catbird, 1990)
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