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Karel Čapek (1890–1938)

Author of War with the Newts

225+ Works 6,204 Members 150 Reviews 26 Favorited

About the Author

Karel Capek is best known abroad for his plays, but at home he is also revered as an accomplished novelist, short-story writer, essayist, and writer of political articles. His bitingly satirical novel The War with the Newts (1936) reveals his understanding of the possible consequences of scientific show more advance. The novel Krakatit (1924), about an explosive that could destroy the world, foreshadows the feared potential of a nuclear disaster. In his numerous short stories he depicts the problems of modern life and common people in a humorous and whimsically philosophical fashion. The plays of Karel Capek presage the Theater of the Absurd. R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) (1921) was a satire on the machine age. He created the word robot from the Czech noun robota, meaning "work" for the human-made automatons who in that play took over the world, leaving only one human being alive. The Insect Comedy (1921), whose characters are insects, is an ironic fantasy on human weakness. The Makropoulos Secret (1923), later used as the basis for Leos Janacek's opera, was an experimental piece that questioned whether immortality is really desirable. All the plays have been produced successfully in New York. Most deal satirically with the modern machine age or with war. Underlying all his work, though, is a faith in humanity, truth, justice, and democracy, which has made him one of the most beloved of all Czech writers. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Disambiguation Notice:

Karel Capek is only himself. He is not himself and his brother, who is a separate person. Therefore, do not combine this page with any of the author pages that include both their names. Thank you for your help.

Image credit: Photo © ÖNB/Wien


Works by Karel Čapek

War with the Newts (1936) 1,970 copies
R.U.R. (1921) 994 copies
The Gardener's Year (1929) 438 copies
Tales from Two Pockets (1994) 305 copies
Apocryphal Tales (1932) — Author — 247 copies
The Absolute at Large (1922) — Author — 231 copies
Hordubal / Meteor / An Ordinary Life (1933) — Author — 210 copies
Krakatit (1924) — Author — 137 copies
RUR & War with the Newts (1920) 125 copies
Talks with T. G. Masaryk (1935) — Author — 111 copies
An Ordinary Life (1934) 65 copies
Letters from England (1924) 58 copies
Voyage vers le Nord (1936) 47 copies
Hordubal (1933) — Author — 46 copies
Meteor (1934) 45 copies
The White Disease (1937) — Author — 37 copies
Letters from Holland (1933) 36 copies
Cross Roads (1938) 35 copies
Letters from Spain (1932) 28 copies
Fabeln und Kleingeschichten (1983) 23 copies
The Cheat (1899) 21 copies
The First Rescue Party (1975) 21 copies
The Makropoulos Secret (1922) 19 copies
Letters from Italy (1923) 16 copies
Výbor francouzské poezie (2000) 15 copies
How They Do It (1945) 11 copies
Bilder aus der Heimat (1988) 10 copies
Povídky z jedné kapsy (2007) 8 copies
Intimate Things (1936) 8 copies
Povídky z druhé kapsy (2000) 8 copies
R.U.R. (2004) 7 copies
Vom Menschen (1944) 6 copies
Money and Other Stories (2000) 6 copies
Reisebilder (1978) 6 copies
Semenderle Savas (2008) 6 copies
A Long Cat Tale (1996) 5 copies
Boží muka (2000) 5 copies
La confesión de Don Juan (1992) 4 copies
Karel Čapek fotografuje- (1989) 4 copies
Od člověka k člověku (1991) 3 copies
Power and Glory (1938) 3 copies
Prinsessen av Solimania (1985) 3 copies
The Fortune-Teller (1996) 3 copies
Listy z podróży (2011) 3 copies
Favole (1994) 3 copies
Prague Mysteries (2015) 3 copies
Smrt Archimédova (2014) 3 copies
Aforyzmy (1988) 2 copies
Valitud teosed 2 copies
The Robber (2005) 2 copies
Krakonošova zahrada (2000) 2 copies
O ljudima (2022) 2 copies
Skoro modlitby (2020) 2 copies
Kertomuksia 2 copies
Loupežník (2013) 2 copies
Kínos történetek (1980) 2 copies
Märchen (1983) 2 copies
Pohádky (2000) 2 copies
Three novels 2 copies
Dramen 2 copies
Inu to neko no ohanasu (1998) 1 copy
La Maladie blanche (2022) 1 copy
Novelle 1 copy
Zahradníkův rok (2007) 1 copy
Musaion 1 copy
Избранное (2003) 1 copy
System 1 copy
Money 1 copy
Čtyři cestopisy (2018) 1 copy
Vylet Do Spanel (2000) 1 copy
2000x: R.U.R. (2000) 1 copy
Apocrifos 1 copy
Korespondence. 2 (1993) 1 copy
Korespondence. 1 (1993) 1 copy
Marsyas 1 copy
Cartea apocrifelor (2004) 1 copy
Siradan Bir Cinayet (2010) 1 copy

Associated Works

A World of Great Stories (1947) 257 copies
The Big Book of Classic Fantasy (2019) — Contributor — 163 copies
Great Tales of Science Fiction (1985) — Contributor — 159 copies
Great Modern European Short Stories (1969) — Contributor — 112 copies
The Treasury of Science Fiction Classics (1954) — Contributor — 75 copies
The Road to Science Fiction #6: Around The World (1998) — Contributor — 46 copies
The Arbor House Treasury of Science Fiction Masterpieces (1983) — Contributor — 43 copies
Science Fiction Thinking Machines (1954) — Contributor — 37 copies
Sense of Wonder: A Century of Science Fiction (2011) — Contributor — 30 copies
Twenty best European plays on the American stage (1957) — Contributor — 28 copies
Racconti Gialli (1992) — Author — 20 copies
Treasury of the Theatre: From Ibsen to Sartre (1951) — Contributor — 17 copies
Tales of the Occult (1975) — Author, some editions — 16 copies
The Favourite Wonder Book (1938) — Contributor — 12 copies
The World of Law, Volume I : The Law in Literature (1960) — Contributor — 12 copies
My Favorite Mystery Stories (1960) — Contributor — 12 copies
Murder Without Tears (1946) — Contributor — 9 copies
Tall Short Stories (1960) — Contributor — 9 copies
Contemporary drama : European plays (1956) — Contributor — 4 copies
Selected Czech Tales, (The World's Classics) (1977) — Contributor — 2 copies
Spionhistorier fra hele verden — Contributor — 2 copies
Chaplin básnik smiechu a sľz (1964) — Contributor — 1 copy
Explorers of the Infinite (1963) — Contributor — 1 copy
Verdens beste kriminalhistorier — Contributor — 1 copy


20th century (115) 20th century literature (27) anthology (211) Capek (27) classics (32) Czech (268) Czech literature (279) Czech Republic (51) drama (135) dystopia (69) ebook (28) essays (42) fantasy (117) fiction (617) garden (28) gardening (68) horror (46) humor (63) Karel Capek (33) literature (158) literature cz (35) non-fiction (46) novel (93) play (63) plays (88) read (60) robots (75) Roman (45) satire (89) science fiction (616) sf (135) sff (27) short stories (232) stories (34) theatre (79) to-read (308) translated (31) translation (37) unread (43) česká (26)

Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Čapek, Karel
Legal name
Čapek, Karel
Other names
Čapek, Karel
Capek, Karel
Kapeçk, Karel
Date of death
Burial location
Vyšehrad cemetery, Prague, Czech Republic
Czech Republic
Country (for map)
Czech Republic
Malé Svatoňovice, Austro-Hungarian Empire
Place of death
Prague, Czechoslovakia
Places of residence
Malé Svatoňovice, Bohemia, Austro-Hungarian Empire
Prague, Czechoslovakia
Stará Huť, Czechoslovakia
Charles University, Prague
The Sorbonne, Paris, France
short-story writer
Čapek, Josef (brother)
Masaryk, Tomáš Garrigue (friend)
Langer, František (colleague)
Poláček, Karel (friend)
PEN Club Czechoslovakia
Disambiguation notice
Karel Capek is only himself. He is not himself and his brother, who is a separate person. Therefore, do not combine this page with any of the author pages that include both their names. Thank you for your help.




This 1921 play seems to be known mostly as the answer to a quiz question — “Where does the word ‘robot’ come from?”. I was mildly curious to see what it actually does with the idea of non-human workers. The answer seems to be: not all that much.

An eccentric inventor, Rossum, has discovered some sort of — unspecified — analogue to biological material, and his son has found a way to turn this into a successful commercial product, manufacturing human-like workers who incorporate all the useful features of real humans, like endurance, strength, versatility and ability to work autonomously, but omit ‘wasteful’ characteristics like personality, capacity for enjoyment, and the ability to reproduce. Of course they are a runaway success, humans are freed from the necessity to do unpleasant work, and everybody is moderately happy, until the robots — inevitably — do develop a capacity to seek greater fulfilment in their lives, and it all goes horribly wrong.

Interesting to see all this worked out from a 1920s perspective, long before the age of computers and all the rest, and it’s obviously meant as another warning about the dehumanising effects of 20th century industrial society, in the same spirit as Metropolis and Modern Times, but it’s executed as rather dull science fiction with human characters who are almost as predictable and mechanical in the author’s hands as their robot counterparts. I think it can safely rest on the shelf as the answer to that quiz question.
… (more)
4 vote
thorold | 26 other reviews | Feb 1, 2024 |
Curious about the origin of the word "robot," I picked up this short play. I was pleased with the read, shining inspiration light on pieces of modern-day fiction (Rossum Corporation from Dollhouse, for one) and an interesting depiction of the AI takeover. Yes, it is a play from 1920, and so it needs to be read with a set of assumptions - sexism is funny; stage directions leave a lot to the imagination; and costuming can make subtle character differences stand out.

All in all, from a historical perspective, this is a stellar piece of writing, and I look forward to reading more by Capek.… (more)
HippieLunatic | 26 other reviews | Jan 12, 2024 |
An amusing collection of short stories, by Karel Čapek, author of R.U.R. and War With the Newts. These are gently satirical takes on figures from history and literature – Prometheus, Alexander the Great, the Nativity, Hamlet, and so forth. A fun read.
1 vote
setnahkt | 8 other reviews | Aug 29, 2023 |
The only thing I’d read of his before was R.U.R. This is a straightforward story about Hordubal who returns home to his small rural village after spending eight years as a miner in the United States. A devoted and loyal husband, he comes home to a wife who is less than happy to see him. She has been “carrying on” with the hired hand and they plan to do away with Hordubal and take his money. The story is largely about the personalities and the customs and mores of a small rural village. Well done and I look forward tackling the next in the series. Although this is the first volume of his Noetic trilogy, the other stories are unrelated, although each book deals with that part of the intellect or the mind that helps one understand what is true or real. Recommended.… (more)
Gypsy_Boy | Aug 24, 2023 |



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