Čapek, Karel

Čapek, Karel kä´rĕl chä´pĕk [key] 1890–1938, Czech playwright, novelist, and essayist. He is best known as the author of two brilliant satirical plays—R. U. R. (Rossum's Universal Robots, 1921, tr. 1923), which introduced the word robot into the English language, and The Insect Play, written with his brother Josef (1921, tr., 1923). These plays embody Čapek's criticism of technological and materialistic excesses. Of his other plays The Makropoulos Secret (1923, tr. 1925) satirizes the human search for immortality and yearning for titanistic greatness. Janáček used it as the basis for his opera The Makropoulos Affair (1925). Čapek's Power and Glory (1937, tr. 1938), condemns totalitarianism and war. He also wrote travel sketches, romances (e.g., Krakatit, 1924, tr. 1925), essays, and short stories. His three volumes of conversations with Thomas G. Masaryk (1928–35, tr. 1934, 1938) form a political biography. Čapek's three philosophical novels, Hordubal (1934, tr. 1934), Meteor (1934, tr. 1935), and An Ordinary Life (1935, tr. 1936) are profound and even mystical in tone. Distinct from his other works, they constitute Čapek's masterpiece.

See biography by I. Klima (2002); studies by W. E. Harkins (1962) and B. R. Bradbrook (1998).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Russian and Eastern European Literature: Biographies