?apek, Karel

?apek, Karel kr?l chp?k [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 ?apek'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. Jan?ek used it as the basis for his opera The Makropoulos Affair (1925). ?apek'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. ?apek'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 ?apek's masterpiece.

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

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