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Tales from Two Pockets by Karel Čapek
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Tales from Two Pockets (1929)

by Karel Čapek

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When you are out there exploring for new things to read (translate this as "I was in the used book store and stumbled across something different) you often don't know what you are getting into. All I knew about Karel Ĉapek was that he was the author of the play "R. U. R." where the first literary use of the term "robot" appears. But I came across this collection and, remembering the link with the term robot and always interested in collections of short stories, I took a flyer.

Boy, am I glad I did.

Within is a charming (yes, that word actually works here) collection of short stories. The overall theme is the telling of crime or mystery stories. At first, it is one man telling stories, but it soon turns into a group of them swapping tales. Also in the beginning, the stories are more procedural. However, in short order they begin to speak more of humans and humanity than they do about the crimes that were committed.

The further one goes in the collection, the deeper one goes into this exploration of justice and human frailty. The sign of this transition is the change in depth of writing. Here is just one quote, from "The Ballad of Juraj Cup": "Listen, if you saw a stone falling up instead of down, you'd call it a miracle...What I'm saying is, if you want to see miracles, keep your eye on people, not stones."

There are deep perceptions into people and their actions. It is obvious Ĉapek, above all, understood people, even as he was trying to discover what they are. And it becomes more and more evident as the stories progress.

At the beginning, they are fun interesting little mystery/crime stories that were written to fulfill the personal obligation he set himself to write a story a day. But as they progressed – as they changed – they become something more.

I had no idea what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. And going back through the stories for this review I found myself revisiting a number of them – short, introspective, and well-written. For me, I will now pursue more of Ĉapek's work. For you, I suggest that, if nothing else, you start your journey here. ( )
2 vote figre | Jul 21, 2014 |
An enjoyable collection of short stories. ( )
  niquetteb | May 6, 2013 |
have not yet read, but the titles of the stories are fascinating in themselves: The Troubles of a Carpet Fancier, Giddiness, The Secrets of Handwriting, The Misadventures of a Matrimonial Swindler... ( )
  overthemoon | Jan 6, 2009 |
To call the forty-eight short stories of Karel Čapek collected and newly translated in Tales from Two Pockets among the greatest the mystery genre has ever produced only begins to tell the tale. For Čapek (War with the Newts), Czechoslovakia's most intellectually piercing literary voice between the world wars, mastered the crafting of plot and evocation of suspense early on in the writing of the Tales and quickly vaulted to a philosophical height few in the genre aspire to.

Full review: http://www.davidlouisedelman.com/reviews/capek.cfm ( )
  DavidLouisEdelman | Jun 14, 2006 |
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"Listen, Mr. Dastych," Detective Captain Mejzlik said pensively to the police department's shrewd old pro, "the truth of the matter is that I've come to you for advice."
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A row of snowy footprints that stop suddenly in the middle of the street. A man who looks just a bit suspicious. Codes that need breaking, handwriting that needs analyzing, cards that need to be read. People willing to do anything to get their hands on an oriental rug, a flowering plant, a cactus, the truth. God acting as a witness while everyone from police officers to juries mete out justice. Crimes and puzzles, the ordinary and the extraordinary, humor and humanism. For the first time, English-language readers can now read all 48 of Karel Capek's classic tales, all in a new translation.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0945774257, Paperback)

Karel Capek (1890-1938), one of the greatest Czechoslovakian authors of the century, and who mastered numerous forms of writing, was particularly inventive with the genre of mystery, detective, and crime fiction. In Tales from Two Pockets, however, Capek took the crime story and related forms of the genre to new levels, weaving strange, short, and powerful psychological studies of ordinary human beings caught in extraordinary and improbable circumstances. Through these intense but always fun stories, Capek moves brilliantly but lightly in the philosophical realms of human existence, exploring the nature of crime and justice, even the very concept of truth.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:22 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A collection of philosophical crime stories. Typical is The Last Judgment in which God refuses to pass judgment on a man accused of murder, preferring to leave the verdict to a court of men. The reason? Being God he knows everything there is to know, therefore he cannot be an impartial judge. By the author of War with the Newts.… (more)

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