Get Karel %C4%8Capek essential facts below. View Videos or join the Karel %C4%8Capek discussion. Add Karel %C4%8Capek to your PopFlock.com topic list for future reference or share this resource on social media.
Early 20th-century Czech writer and playwright famous for his science fiction
Karel ?apek (Czech: ['kar?l 't?ap?k] ; 9 January 1890 - 25 December 1938) was a Czech writer, playwright and critic. He has become best known for his science fiction, including his novel War with the Newts (1936) and play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots, 1920), 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 favour 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, ?apek never received it. However, several awards commemorate his name, such as the Karel ?apek 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.
?apek died on the brink of World War II as the result of a lifelong medical condition,
but his legacy as a literary figure became well established after the war.
House of ?apek brothers in Prague 10, Vinohrady
Early life and education
Karel ?apek was born in 1890 in the village of Malé Svato?ovice in the Bohemian mountains. However, six months after his birth, the ?apek family moved to their own house in Úpice. Karel ?apek's father, Antonín ?apek, worked as a doctor at the local textile factory. Antonín was a very active 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 ?apek loved and admired his father, later calling him "a good example... of the generation of national awakeners". Karel's mother, Bo?ena ?apková, was a homemaker. Unlike her husband, she did not like life in the country, and she suffered from long-term depression. Despite that, she assiduously collected and recorded local folklore, such as legends, songs and 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, Karel moved with his grandmother to Hradec Králové, where he started attending high school. Two years later the school expelled him for taking part in an illegal students' club. ?apek 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 ?apek 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 University in Paris. While still a university student he wrote some works on contemporary art and literature. He graduated with a doctorate of philosophy in 1915.
World War I and Interwar period
Exempted from military service due to the spinal problems that would haunt him his whole life, ?apek 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 Tomá? Garrigue Masaryk, Czechoslovak patriot and the first President of Czechoslovakia, and his son Jan Masaryk, who would later become minister of foreign affairs. T. G. Masaryk was a regular guest at ?apek's "Friday Men" garden parties for leading Czech intellectuals. ?apek was also a member of Masaryk's Hrad political network. Their frequent conversations on various topics later served as the basis for ?apek's book Talks with T. G. Masaryk.
Tomb of Karel ?apek and Olga Scheinpflugová at Vy?ehrad cemetery
?apek 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.
?apek's early attempts at fiction were short stories and plays for the most part written with his brother Josef. ?apek's first international success was R.U.R., a dystopian work about a bad day at a factory populated with sentientandroids. The play was translated into English in 1922, and was being performed in the UK and America by 1923. Throughout the 1920s, ?apek worked in many writing genres, producing both fiction and non-fiction, but worked primarily as a journalist. In the 1930s, ?apek's work focused on the threat of brutal national socialist and fascist dictatorships; by the mid-1930s, ?apek had become "an outspoken anti-fascist". He also became a member of International PEN Club. Established, and was the first president of the Czechoslovak PEN Club.
Late life and death
In 1935 Karel ?apek 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 treaty agreements, and they refused to defend Czechoslovakia against Nazi Germany. Although offered the chance to go to exile in England, ?apek 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 Hu?, he contracted a common cold. As he had suffered all his life from spondyloarthritis and was also a heavy smoker, Karel ?apek 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 ?apek 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 ?apek and his wife are buried at the Vy?ehrad cemetery in Prague. The inscription on the tombstone reads: "Here would have been buried Josef ?apek, painter and poet. Grave far away."
Karel ?apek's handwriting
Karel ?apek wrote on a wide variety of subjects. His works are known for their precise description of reality. ?apek is renowned for his 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).
?apek also expressed fear of social disasters, dictatorship, violence, human stupidity, the unlimited power of corporations, and greed. ?apek tried to find hope, and the way out.
Ivan Klíma, in his biography of ?apek, notes his influence on modern Czech literature, as well as on the development of Czech as a written language. ?apek, along with contemporaries like Jaroslav Ha?ek, 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 ?apek that the written Czech language grew closer to the language people actually spoke". ?apek 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 Zden?k Folprecht's opera Lásky hra osudná in 1922.
After World War II, ?apek'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 ?apek, in which the writer discusses the subjects of pacifism and his conscientious objection to military service with lawyer Jind?ich Groag from Brno. Until then, only a portion of these letters were known.
I read Karel ?apek 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.
Etymology of robot
R.U.R. theatrical poster, 1939
Karel ?apek 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 Dictionaryetymology in which he named his brother, painter and writer Josef ?apek, 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 labo?i (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 *orbota, meaning "work, hard work, obligatory work for the king, or a short form used for plowing".
1920 - R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), (Rossumovi univerzální roboti) - play with one of the first examples of artificial intelligence human-like beings in art and literature.
1921 - Pictures from the Insects' Life (Ze ?ivota hmyzu), also known as The Insect Play or The Life of the Insects, with Josef ?apek, a satire in which insects stand in for various human characteristics: the flighty, vain butterfly, the obsequious, self-serving dung beetle.
1927 - Adam the Creator (Adam stvo?itel) - The titular hero tries to destroy the world and replace it with a better one. It was adapted into an animated short by Japanese director Mahiro Maeda in 2015.
1937 - The White Disease (Bílá nemoc) - earlier translated as (Power and Glory). About the conflict between a pacifist doctor and the fascistic Marshal. This was the answer to coming Nazi era in the air, just before the start of WWII.
Stories from a Pocket and Stories from Another Pocket, (Povídky z jedné a z druhé kapsy) - a common name for a cycle of short detective stories (5-10 pages long) that shared common attitude and characters, including The Last Judgement.
How it is Made (Jak se co d?lá) - satiric novels on the life of theater, newspaper and movie studio.
The Gardener's Year (Zahradník?v rok, 1929) is exactly what it says it is: a year-round guide to gardening, charmingly written, with illustrations by his brother Josef ?apek.
An Atomic Phantasy: Krakatit or simply Krakatit, 1924 (in Czech)
Believe in People : the essential Karel ?apek : previously untranslated journalism and letters 2010. Faber and Faber, ISBN9780571231621. Selected and translated with an introduction by ?árka Tobrmanová-Kühnová ; preface by John Carey.
The Cheat. Allen and Unwin, 1941.
Cross Roads, 2002, Catbird Press, ISBN0-945774-55-9 cloth; 0-945774-54-0 trade paperback. Translation by Norma Comrada of "Bo?í muka" (1917) and "Trapné povídky" (1921).
I Had a Dog and a Cat. Allen & Unwin, 1940.
Nine Fairy Tales: And One More Thrown in for Good Measure, October 1996, Northwestern Univ Press Paperback Reissue Edition, ISBN0-8101-1464-X. Illustrated by Josef Capek, Translated by Dagmar Herrmann
^"Czech PEN Club awards Karel ?apek Prize to Petr ?abach". Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic. 19 January 2016. Retrieved 2016. 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.
^ abDerek Sayer, The Coasts of Bohemia: A Czech History. Princeton University Press, 2000 ISBN069105052X, (p.22-3).
^?apek, Karel; ?apek, Josef (1982). "P?edmluva autobiografická". Ze spole?né tvorby: Krakono?ova zahrada, Zá?ivé hlubiny a jiné prózy, Lásky hra osudná, Ze ?ivota hmyzu, Adam stvo?itel (in Czech). ?eskoslovenský spisovatel. p. 13.
Preclík, Vratislav. Masaryk a legie, Masaryk and legions, first issue váz. kniha, 219 pages, vydalo nakladatelství Paris Karviná, ?i?kova 2379 (734 01 Karviná, Czechia) ve spolupráci s Masarykovým demokratickým hnutím (in cooperation with Masaryk Democratic Movement, Prague), 2019, ISBN978-80-87173-47-3
?apek biographies in English
Karel ?apek: An Essay by Alexander Matu?ka, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1964. Translation from the Slovak by Cathryn Alan of ?lov?k proti zkáze: Pokus o Karla ?apka.
Karel ?apek by William E. Harkins, Columbia University Press, 1962.
Karel ?apek: In Pursuit of Truth, Tolerance and Trust by Bohuslava R. Bradbrook, Sussex Academic Press, 1998, ISBN1-898723-85-0.
Karel ?apek: Life and Work by Ivan Klíma, Catbird Press, 2002, ISBN0-945774-53-2. Translation from the Czech by Norma Comrada of Velký v?k chce mít té? velké mordyivot a dílo Karla ?apka.