Karel Čapek (/ˈtʃɑːpɛk/; Czech: [ˈkarɛl ˈtʃapɛk] (listen); 9 January 1890 – 25 December 1938) was a Czech writer, playwright and critic. He has become best known for his science fiction, including his 1936 novel War with the Newts and 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), which introduced the word robot. He also wrote many politically charged works dealing with the social turmoil of his time. Influenced by American pragmatic liberalism, he campaigned in favor of free expression and strongly opposed the rise of both fascism and communism in Europe.
Though nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature seven times, Čapek never won it. However, several awards commemorate his name, such as the Karel Čapek Prize, awarded every other year by the Czech PEN Club for literary work that contributes to reinforcing or maintaining democratic and humanist values in society. He also played a key role in establishing the Czechoslovak PEN Club as a part of International PEN.
|Born||9 January 1890|
Malé Svatoňovice, Austria-Hungary (today Czech Republic)
|Died||25 December 1938 (aged 48)|
Prague, Czechoslovakia (today Czech Republic)
|Pen name||K. Č., B. Č.|
|Occupation||Novelist, dramatist, journalist, theorist|
|Alma mater||Charles University in Prague|
|Genre||Science fiction, Political satire|
Válka s mloky (War with the Newts)
Bílá nemoc (The White Disease)
Továrna na absolutno (The Absolute at Large)
|Notable awards||Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (in memoriam)|
|Relatives||Josef Čapek (brother)|
Helena Čapková (sister)
Karel Čapek was born in 1890 in the Bohemian mountain village of Malé Svatoňovice. However, six months after his birth, the Čapek family moved to their own house in Úpice. His father, Antonín Čapek, worked as a doctor at the local textile factory. Antonín was a very energetic person; apart from his work as a doctor, he also co-funded the local museum and was a member of the town council. Despite opposing his father's materialist and positivist views, Karel Čapek loved and admired his father, later calling him “a good example... of the generation of national awakeners.” Karel's mother, Božena Čapková, was a homemaker. Unlike her husband she did not like life in the country and she suffered from long-term depressions. Despite that, she assiduously collected and recorded local folklore, such as legends, songs or stories. Karel was the youngest of three siblings. He would maintain an especially close relationship with his brother Josef, a highly successful painter, living and working with him throughout his adult life. His sister, Helena, was a talented pianist who later become a writer and published several memoirs about Karel and Josef.
After finishing elementary school in Úpice, he moved with his grandmother to Hradec Králové, where he attended high school. Two years later, he was expelled for taking part in an illegal students' club. Čapek later described the club as a “very non-murderous anarchist society.” After this incident he moved to Brno with his sister and attempted to finish high school there, but two years later he moved again, to Prague, where he finished high school at the Academic Grammar School in 1909. During his teenage years Čapek became enamored with the visual arts, especially Cubism, which influenced his later writing. After graduating from high school, he studied philosophy and aesthetics in Prague at Charles University, but he also spent some time at the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin and at the Sorbonne in Paris. While he was still a university student, he wrote some works on contemporary art and literature. He graduated with a doctorate of philosophy in 1915.
Exempted from military service due to the spinal problems that would haunt him his whole life, Čapek observed World War I from Prague. His political views were strongly affected by the war, and as a budding journalist he began to write on topics like nationalism, totalitarianism and consumerism. Through social circles, the young author developed close relationships with many of the political leaders of the nascent Czechoslovak state, including Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, Czechoslovak patriot and the first President of Czechoslovakia, and his son Jan, who would later become foreign secretary. T. G. Masaryk was a regular guest at Čapek's "Friday Men" garden parties for leading Czech intellectuals. Čapek was also a member of Masaryk's Hrad political network. Their frequent conversations on various topics later served as the basis for Čapek's Talks with T. G. Masaryk.
Čapek began his writing career as a journalist. With his brother Josef, he worked as an editor for the Czech paper Národní listy (The National Newspaper) from October 1917 to April 1921. Upon leaving, he and Josef joined the staff of Lidové noviny (The People's Paper) in April 1921.
Čapek's early attempts at fiction were short stories and plays for the most part written with his brother Josef. Čapek's first international success was R.U.R., a dystopian work about a bad day at a factory populated with sentient androids. The play was translated into English in 1922, and was being performed in the UK and America by 1923. Throughout the 1920s, Čapek worked in many writing genres, producing both fiction and non-fiction, but worked primarily as a journalist. In the 1930s, Čapek's work focused on the threat of brutal national socialist and fascist dictatorships; by the mid-1930s, Čapek had become "an outspoken anti-fascist". He also became a member of International PEN and established, and was the first president of, the Czechoslovak PEN Club.
In 1935 Karel Čapek married actress Olga Scheinpflugová, after a long acquaintance. In 1938 it became clear that the Western allies, namely France and the United Kingdom, would fail to fulfil the pre-war agreements, and they refused to defend Czechoslovakia against Nazi Germany. Although offered the chance to go to exile in England, Čapek refused to leave his country – even though the Nazi Gestapo had named him "public enemy number two". While repairing flood damage to his family's summer house in Stará Huť, he contracted a common cold. As he had suffered all his life from spondyloarthritis and was also a heavy smoker, Karel Čapek died of pneumonia, on 25 December 1938.
Surprisingly, the Gestapo was not aware of his death. Several months later, just after the German invasion of Czechoslovakia, Nazi agents came to the Čapek family house in Prague to arrest him. Upon discovering that he had already been dead for some time, they arrested and interrogated his wife Olga. His brother Josef was arrested in September and eventually died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in April 1945. Karel Čapek and his wife are buried at the Vyšehrad cemetery in Prague. The inscription on the tombstone reads: "Here would have been buried Josef Čapek, painter and poet. Grave far away."
Karel Čapek wrote with intelligence and humor on a wide variety of subjects. His works are known for their interesting and precise description of reality. Čapek is renowned for his excellent work with the Czech language. He is known as a science fiction author, who wrote before science fiction became widely recognized as a separate genre. Many of his works also discuss ethical aspects of industrial inventions and processes already anticipated in the first half of the 20th century. These include mass production, nuclear weapons and intelligent artificial beings such as robots or androids. His most productive years were during The First Republic of Czechoslovakia (1918–1938).
Čapek also expressed fear of social disasters, dictatorship, violence, human stupidity, the unlimited power of corporations, and greed. Čapek tried to find hope, and the way out.
Ivan Klíma, in his biography of Čapek, notes his influence on modern Czech literature, as well as on the development of Czech as a written language. Čapek, along with contemporaries like Jaroslav Hašek, spawned part of the early 20th-century revival in written Czech thanks to their decision to use the vernacular. Klíma writes, "It is thanks to Čapek that the written Czech language grew closer to the language people actually spoke". Čapek was also a translator, and his translations of French poetry into the language inspired a new generation of Czech poets.
His other books and plays include detective stories, novels, fairy tales and theatre plays, and even a book on gardening. His most important works attempt to resolve problems of epistemology, to answer the question: "What is knowledge?" Examples include Tales from Two Pockets, and the first book of the trilogy of novels Hordubal, Meteor, and An Ordinary Life. He also co-wrote (with his brother Josef) the libretto for Zdeněk Folprecht's opera Lásky hra osudná in 1922.
After World War II, Čapek's work was only reluctantly accepted by the communist government of Czechoslovakia, because during his life he had refused to accept communism as a viable alternative. He was the first in a series of influential non-Marxist intellectuals who wrote a newspaper essay in a series called "Why I am not a Communist".
In 2009 (70 years after his death), a book was published containing extensive correspondence by Karel Čapek, in which the writer discusses the subjects of pacifism and his conscientious objection to military service with lawyer Jindřich Groag from Brno. Until then, only a portion of these letters were known.
Arthur Miller wrote in 1990:
I read Karel Čapek for the first time when I was a college student long ago in the Thirties. There was no writer like him...prophetic assurance mixed with surrealistic humour and hard-edged social satire: a unique combination...he is a joy to read.
Karel Čapek introduced and made popular the frequently used international word robot, which first appeared in his play R.U.R. in 1920. While it is frequently thought that he was the originator of the word, he wrote a short letter in reference to an article in the Oxford English Dictionary etymology in which he named his brother, painter and writer Josef Čapek, as its actual inventor. In an article in the Czech journal Lidové noviny in 1933, he also explained that he had originally wanted to call the creatures laboři (from Latin labor, work). However, he did not like the word, seeing it as too artificial, and sought advice from his brother Josef, who suggested roboti (robots in English).
The word robot comes from the word robota. The word robota means literally "corvée", "serf labor", and figuratively "drudgery" or "hard work" in Czech. It also means "work", "labor" in Slovak, archaic Czech, and many other Slavic languages (e.g., Bulgarian, Russian, Serbian, Polish, Macedonian, Ukrainian, etc.). It derives from the reconstructed Proto-Slavic word *robota, meaning "(slave) work." (cf. the German word for work, Arbeit.)
Čapek received the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, in memoriam, in 1991.
The philosopher Vaclav Belohradsky, one of the few Czech intellectuals supportive of the 'civic' right during the early 1990s, [...] viewed Klaus's thinking as a return to the American-influenced pragmatic liberalism of the Czech essayist and writer Karel Capek [...].
The prize is awarded every other year for prosaic, dramatic or essayistic work by a Czech author which comprehensibly contributes to reinforcing or maintaining democratic and humanist values in society.
1931 Čapek, provisional designation 1969 QB, is a background asteroid from the central regions of the asteroid belt, approximately 7 kilometers in diameter. It was discovered on 22 August 1969, by Czech astronomer Luboš Kohoutek at the Bergedorf Observatory in Hamburg, Germany. The asteroid was named in memory of Czech writer Karel Čapek.Capek's Tales
Capek's Tales (Czech: Čapkovy povídky) is a 1947 Czech drama film directed by Martin Frič, based on 5 short detective stories by Karel Čapek. It was nominated for the Grand International Award at the Venice Film Festival, 1947.Hordubalové
Hordubalové is a Czech drama film directed by Martin Frič. It was released in 1937. It was based on the novel Hordubal by Karel Čapek.Josef Čapek
Josef Čapek (Czech pronunciation: [ˈjozɛf ˈtʃapɛk]; 23 March 1887 – April 1945) was a Czech artist who was best known as a painter, but who was also noted as a writer and a poet. He invented the word robot, which was introduced into literature by his brother, Karel Čapek.List of Czech literary awards
A list of Czech literary awards.
Magnesia Litera : Annual book award held in the Czech Republic.
Jiří Orten Award (Cena Jiřího Ortena) : a Czech literary prize given to the author of a work of prose or poetry who is no older than 30 at the time of the work's completion. Named after Jiří Orten
Josef Škvorecký Award (Cena Josefa Škvoreckého) : Prize for the best Czech prose of the past year. Named after Josef Škvorecký
The Czech Book (Česká kniha) : literary prize with the objective of promoting contemporary Czech literature.
Franz Kafka Prize (Cena Franze Kafky) : an international literary award named after Franz Kafka.
Karel Čapek Prize (Czech PEN) (Cena Karla Čapka): for significant literary contributions in support of reinforcing or maintaining democratic and humanist values in society. Named after Karel Čapek.
Karel Čapek Prize (Fandom Prize) (Cena Karla Čapka (cena fandomu)) : awarded to authors of works of science fiction, fantasy or horror written in Czech or Slovak. Named after Karel Čapek.
Czech State Award for Literature (Státní cena za literaturu) : State national award for an original literary work in Czech published during the preceding year or in recognition of a lifetime’s work of excellence.
Czech State Award for Translation (Státní cena za překladatelské dílo) : State national award for the translation of a literary work from a foreign language into Czech.
Lidové Noviny Book of the Year (Kniha roku Lidových novin) : The book of the year according to Lidové Noviny newspapers.
Jaroslav Seifert Prize (Cena Jaroslava Seiferta) : prestigious Czech literary prize awarded for an excellent work of poetry or fiction published in the past three years in the Czech Republic or abroad. Named after the Nobel Prize–winning Czechoslovak writer, poet and journalist, Jaroslav Seifert.
Golden Ribbon Award (Zlatá Stuha) : An annual award to creators of the best books for children and young people in the Czech language. It is only prize in the Czech Republic dedicated exclusively to children's literature.Malé Svatoňovice
Malé Svatoňovice (Czech pronunciation: [ˈmalɛː ˈsvatoɲovɪtsɛ]; German: Klein Schwadowitz) is a village and municipality in the Hradec Králové Region of the Czech Republic at the bottom of Jestřebí hory, near the Krkonoše mountain range.
As of 2018, the population of the village is 1,529, and the area is 6,75 km². There is a large railway station, built in the 1850s and enlarged during World War II for use in the coal mining industry.
Malé Svatoňovice is the starting point of many tourism trails. Places of geological interest in the area include the Hronov-Porici fault, abandoned mines, and exposed Permian-Mesozoic rocks.
In 1890, Malé Svatoňovice became the birthplace of Karel Čapek, one of the most famous Czech writers. There is a Čapek Brothers Museum in the village. Karel Čapek's brother Josef was the first Czech Cubist, and some of his work is displayed in the museum. Some locations in the village and surrounding areas were used by Karel Čapek in his book Nine Fairy Tales (also known as Fairy Tales), published in the United Kingdom in 1933.
Another author to use Studánka as the backdrop for her work was Božena Němcová, who mentioned Studánka as a pilgrimage destination in her 1855 novel The Grandma (Czech: Babička).
In the central square of Malé Svatoňovice is a baroque Catholic church from 1734, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The church was built on the site of seven strong springs. The springs now rise in the chapel, which was built in 1732. In the upper part of the village is a crossroads with seven chapels.
The village also used to be home to hydrotherapy spas, which are now closed.Marie and Robert Weatherall
Marie and Robert Weatherall were a married couple who collaborated in translating the work of Karel Čapek into English.
Marie Weatherall, née Isakovicsová (1897 – 1972) was from Czechoslovakia. Educated at Prague University, Marie had obtained her doctorate and married Robert Weatherall by 1927, when she published an article on Walter Pater in a Czechoslovak philological journal.Robert Weatherall (1899 – 27 September 1973, Barham, Kent) was educated at Cambridge University before becoming a biology master at Rugby School. Weatherall subsequently taught at Eton College. An active participant in the social hygiene movement, he was on the board of the British Social Biology Council for nearly four decades, and co-editor of their journal Biology and Human Affairs. In 1944, as secretary of the Education Advisory Board of the Social Hygiene Council, Weatherall proposed the setting up of a national public service to collect, wash and return diapers within 24 hours.Pictures from the Insects' Life
Pictures from the Insects' Life (Czech: Ze života hmyzu) – also known as The Insect Play, The Life of the Insects, The Insect Comedy, The World We Live In and From Insect Life – is a satirical play that was written in the Czech language by the Brothers Čapek (Karel and Josef), who alltogether collaborated on 4 stage works, of which this is the most famous. It was published in 1921 and premiered in 1922.
In the play, a tramp/narrator falls asleep in the woods and dreams of observing a range of insects that stand in for various human characteristics in terms of their lifestyle and morality: the flighty, vain butterfly, the obsequious, self-serving dung beetle, the ants, whose increasingly mechanized behaviour leads to a militaristic society. The anthropomorphized insects allow the writers to comment allegorically on life in post-World War I Czechoslovakia.První parta
První parta is a Czech novel by Karel Čapek. It was first published in 1937. It was adapted into a film in 1959.R.U.R.
R.U.R. is a 1920 science fiction play by the Czech writer Karel Čapek. R.U.R. stands for Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti (Rossum's Universal Robots). However, the English phrase "Rossum's Universal Robots" had been used as the subtitle in the Czech original. It premiered on 25 January 1921 and introduced the word "robot" to the English language and to science fiction as a whole.R.U.R. quickly became famous and was influential early in the history of its publication. By 1923, it had been translated into thirty languages.The play begins in a factory that makes artificial people, called roboti (robots), from synthetic organic matter. They are not exactly robots by the current definition of the term: they are living flesh and blood creatures rather than machinery and are closer to the modern idea of androids or replicants. They may be mistaken for humans and can think for themselves. They seem happy to work for humans at first, but a robot rebellion leads to the extinction of the human race. Čapek later took a different approach to the same theme in War with the Newts, in which non-humans become a servant class in human society.R.U.R. is dark but not without hope, and was successful in its day in both Europe and North America.Science fiction theatre
Science fiction theatre includes live dramatic works, but generally not cinema or television programmes. It has long been overshadowed by its literary and broadcast counterparts, but has a long history, and indeed introduced the word robot into global usage.Stará Huť
Stará Huť is a village in the Central Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic, near the town of Dobříš, in the district of Příbram. The average age of the 1,111 inhabitants is 36.8 years. It was founded around 1674, originally for the purposes of metallurgy. While the landscape is reported to be not fruitful and therefore not suitable for agriculture, it is a popular place for hiking. Karel Čapek, a Czech writer, was fascinated by the beauty of the forests, ponds and meadows, and he used to spend a lot of time in his local summer residence in the latter half of the 1930s, working and relaxing.
Currently the village area is developing with some new housing settlements on offer in the vicinity. Some 1,5km away from Stará Huť village down the Malostranska road (3.3km away from the center of Dobříš and 40km from center of Prague) located a cottage settlement "Stara Hut". Construction began in 2007 however was halted due to the financial crisis. Currently the cottage settlement "Stara Hut" is partially inhabited while the rest of the settlement is in process of completion.The Makropulos Affair
Věc Makropulos is a Czech play written by Karel Čapek. Its English title has been variously rendered as The Makropulos Affair, The Makropulos Case, or The Makropulos Secret. The Makropulos Secret was Čapek's own preferred English rendition of the play's title.Described by Čapek as a "comedy", Věc Makropulos received its first performance on 21 November 1922 in the Vinohrady Theatre in Prague. The play was produced in translation at the Arts Theatre in London, under the name The Macropulos Secret, on 8 July 1930. The producer was A. R. Whatmore and the cast included André van Gyseghem as Vitek, Lesley Wareing as Krista and Donald Wolfit as Jaroslav Prus.Between 1923 and 1925, Leoš Janáček adapted the play into an opera of the same name.The Mother
The Mother may refer to:
Mother (Gorky novel), 1906 novel by Maxim Gorky
The Mother (Brecht play), a play by Bertolt Brecht based on Gorky's novel, first performed in 1935
The Mother (Pearl S. Buck novel), first published in 1934
The Mother (TV play) (1954), by Paddy Chayefsky
The Mother (film), a 2003 film directed by Roger Michell
The Mother (Čapek play), a play by Karel Čapek written in 1938
Mirra Alfassa (1878–1973), spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo, a Hindu spiritual leader
The Mother (How I Met Your Mother), a fictional television characterThe Mother (Čapek play)
The Mother (Matka in Czech) is an anti-war drama written by Czech novelist and playwright Karel Čapek, in 1938. The play is influenced by the Spanish civil war and portrays the difficult relationship between men who wanted to fight, and their mothers and loved ones who did not want them to go. It also shows the fight against fascism, and the emotional turmoil and suffering that war brings. The play emphasizes the unnecessary difficulties of war and the complex relationships during war, emphasizing that although wars are bad, sometimes we have no choice but to fight them to protect our freedoms.The White Disease
The White Disease (Czech: Bílá nemoc) is a play written by Czech novelist Karel Čapek in 1937. Written at a time of increasing threat from Nazi Germany to Czechoslovakia, it portrays a human response to a tense, prewar situation in an unnamed country that greatly resembles Germany with one extra, somewhat absurd addition: an uncurable white disease, a mysterious form of leprosy, is selectively killing off people older than 45. It was adapted as the film Skeleton on Horseback by Hugo Haas.Vyšehrad
Vyšehrad (Czech for "upper castle") is a historic fort located in the city of Prague, Czech Republic, just over 3 km southeast of Prague Castle, on the right bank of the Vltava River. It was built probably in the 10th century. Situated within the fort is the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul, as well as the Vyšehrad Cemetery, containing the remains of many famous people from Czech history, among them Antonín Dvořák, Bedřich Smetana, Karel Čapek, and Alphonse Mucha. It also contains Prague's oldest Rotunda of St. Martin from the 11th century.War with the Newts
War with the Newts (Válka s mloky in the original Czech), also translated as War with the Salamanders, is a 1936 satirical science fiction novel by Czech author Karel Čapek. It concerns the discovery in the Pacific of a sea-dwelling race, an intelligent breed of newts, who are initially enslaved and exploited. They acquire human knowledge and rebel, leading to a global war for supremacy. There are obvious similarities to Čapek's earlier R.U.R., but also some original themes.
War with the Newts was described as a "classic work" of science fiction by science fiction author and critic Damon Knight.
War With The Newts is acclaimed by many as the first dystopian novel, and is today still considered by many as the best book of science fiction ever written. For many years the novel was hard to obtain, and earlier copies have been known to sell for over one hundred dollars.Čapek
Čapek (feminine Čapková; Czech pronunciation: [ˈtʃapɛk], [ˈtʃapkovaː]) is a Czech surname. Notable people with the surname include:
František Čapek (1914–2008), Czechoslovak canoeist
Jan Čapek of Sány († after 1445), Czech commander of the Hussites (see Battle of Lipany and cs:Jan Čapek ze Sán)
Josef Čapek (1887–1945), Czech painter and writer (brother of Karel Čapek)
Josef Čapek (footballer), Czech footballer
Karel Čapek (1890–1938), Czech journalist, writer and playwright
Karel Matěj Čapek-Chod (1860–1927), Czech writer
Milič Čapek (1909–1997), Czech-American philosopher
Norbert Čapek (1870–1942) founder of the Unitarian Church in Czechoslovakia
Tereza Čapková, Czech athlete
John Capek, Czech-Australian songwriter
Irene Capek, Czech Holocaust survivor and MBE recipient