Home News “In Praise of Karel Čapek” – Ben Dolnick, The New York Times

“In Praise of Karel Čapek” – Ben Dolnick, The New York Times

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“Two things keep Karel Čapek’s “War With the Newts”  (Válka s mloky) from getting the recognition it deserves: its cover and its title.

The best translation’s cover design, black text on teal, has all the panache of a dishwasher manual. And the title evokes spacesuit-clad heroes racing around cheap sets, firing laser guns at unscary animatronic lizards.

Forget all that.

War With the Newts,” (Válka s mloky) published in 1936, is a funny, bizarre, dystopian masterpiece, and Čapek deserves a place on the Mount Rushmore of authorial seers, right alongside George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Margaret Atwood.

To the extent that Čapek is remembered today, it is largely by crossword puzzlers who know that he invented the word “robot” (and even this is dubious: Capek credits the term to his brother).” – Ben Dolnick

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/16/books/in-praise-of-karel-capek.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_with_the_Newts

War with the Newts” has been translated into English at least three times. Reviewers describe the original 1936 Allen & Unwin translation by the husband-and-wife team of Marie and Robert Weatherall as competent but uninspired. The language of the era is preserved, but some of Čapek’s literary techniques are obscured.

The 1985 translation, by the Czech Ewald Osers, is regarded by many reviewers as superior, capturing the crispness and strong metaphors of the original. This translation was supported by the UNESCO Collection of Representative Works.

Veteran Kafka translator David Wyllie completed another translation.

Various translations in French, German, Dutch, Norwegian, Spanish, Russian, Polish, Romanian,  Hungarian, etc., have appeared since the 1960s.

In 1981 Kenny Murray and Ken Campbell adapted the story into a play, which was performed at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool.

A 2003 production, based on the English translation by Ewald Osers, was adapted for the stage by E.B. Solomon and performed at the Kennedy Center’s Prelude Festival and later at The Catholic University of America and the Mead Theatre Lab.

In 2010, an adaptation by Jason Loewith and Justin D.M. Palmer (in collaboration with puppet designer Michael Montenegro) was performed at Next Theatre in Evanston, Illinois.

In 1981, Ken Campbell directed “War With the Newts” at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, London. With Henry Davis, Txi Whizz; consultant, Nigel Bourne

In 1998, Stephan Koplowitz directed/choreographed/produced a movement/theater/music production of “War With the Newts” at Dance Theater Workshop, the script was adapted by David Lindsay-Abaire, with music by Andrew Warshaw.

In 2005 a BBC Radio adaption was produced, starring Dermot Crowley, Sally Hawkins, Henry Goodman, Geoffrey Beevers, Tina Gray, and Adrian Scarborough.

A film adaptation by the Polish director Agnieszka Holland and Czech movie producer Tomáš Krejčí is in pre-production.

Karel Čapek (Czech: [ˈkarɛl ˈtʃapɛk] ; 9 January 1890 – 25 December 1938), a Czech writer of the early 20th century, filled multiple roles during his career, including those of playwright, dramatist, essayist, publisher, literary reviewer, photographer, and art critic.

He has become best known for his science fiction, including his 1936 novel “War with the Newts” (Válka s mloky), the 1920 play “R.U.R.” (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which introduced the word “robot”, “The Absolute at Large” (Továrna na absolutno, 1922),  novel which can be interpreted as a SF satire of consumer society, “Krakatit”, 1922 , novel, the plot of which includes a prediction of a nuclear-weapon-like explosive, “The Makropulos Affair” (Věc Makropulos, 1922), play about human immortality, not really from a science-fiction point of view, “Adam the Creator” (Adam stvořitel, 1927) – the titular hero tries to destroy the world and replace it with a better one.

http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/capek_karel

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