Karel Čapek Additional Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Born on January 9, 1890, Karel apek was the youngest of three children. His sister, Helene, after whom a major character in R.U.R. is named, was born in 1886 and also became a writer. Josef, who was Karel’s closest lifelong friend as well as his brother, was born in 1887. The apek family was living at that time in the idyllic country town of Malé Svatoovice, close to what later became Czechoslovakia’s border with Austria and Germany. The town, situated in the Krakonoe Mountains, was essentially bilingual, so that apek and his siblings grew up with equal fluency in German and Czech.

apek’s father, Antonín, was a country doctor, but his interests encompassed a wide range of topics. Always intrigued by theater, he headed an amateur theatrical group in his town. He enjoyed painting, was a poet although he remained unpublished, and was an enthusiastic gardener who passed on this enthusiasm to both of his sons. apek’s mother, Boena apková, was extremely cultivated, having a particular interest in the folklore of her area and in the music and tales that had grown out of this folklore. She told and read many tales to her children when they were very young, and she sang to them the songs of their region. The later work of both apek brothers reflects directly these early influences. Until his final days, Karel was more devoted to fairy tales than to any other form of literature, save, perhaps, mystery stories, to which he was addicted.

Boena apková was basically quite neurotic. Abused by her father, she quickly developed a resentment for and distrust of her husband. Their marriage was not a happy one. Her hypochondria manifested itself in an overconcern for the health of her children, particularly for the health of Karel, who was very small at birth and who suffered early from weak lungs, an affliction with which he lived throughout his life and which ultimately brought about his death in 1938.

apek was exposed to a broad range of people as he was growing up, partly because his father’s patients came from all walks of life and levels of society and partly because his mother surrounded herself with the people who best knew the folklore of the region, the peasants who lived in the environs in which apek was reared.

The closeness that developed between Karel and his brother Josef is largely attributable to the fact that Josef was expected as a small child to look after his sickly brother. The two were virtually inseparable until 1910, at which time Karel went to Berlin to study and Josef went to Paris. By this time, Karel had studied at the gymnasium in Brno in the province of Moravia for two years, from 1905 to 1907; had completed secondary school in Prague, where his father, by then retired from his medical practice, had come with his wife to live; and had spent one year, 1909-1910, as a student of philosophy at Charles University, where he presumably first came under the strong influence of Tomas G. Masaryk, also a philosopher.

When Karel went to Berlin and his brother to Paris, the collaboration of their early days was interrupted. Lásky hra osudná had been completed, but it was still to be eight years before the two brothers published Krakonoova zahrada, a collection of their earlier sketches, and twelve years before they were to engage in the thoroughgoing collaboration of which The Insect Play was the product.

apek, who had an...

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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

The son of Antonin apek, a physician, and Boena apková, a woman much interested in folklore, Karel apek was the youngest of their three children. Born in Malé Svatoovice, a rural community in the Krakonose Mountains not far from Czechoslovakia’s border with Austria and Germany, Karel was a sickly child. Boena entertained her children with folktales, many of which eventually made their way into the writing of her sons, Karel and Josef.

Karel and Josef were seldom apart during their lifetimes, although in 1910 Karel went to Berlin to study and Josef went to Paris. Karel had already studied philosophy at Prague’s Charles University under Thomas G. Masaryk, who became president of Czechoslovakia in 1918, holding that position until 1935. He and the apek brothers were close friends, who met every Friday night at the double house that Karel and Josef built in 1925 and in which they lived side by side for the rest of their lives.

The rise of Hitler in Germany troubled the apeks greatly. Karel, severely depressed by the oppressive political climate, failed physically and, on Christmas Day, 1938, less than a year before World War II began, succumbed to pneumonia. His widow, Olga, burned his papers, fearing that in the political climate that then existed they might incriminate his friends. Shortly after Karel died, Nazi officials arrived at his house with a warrant for his arrest.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

The youngest child of a country doctor, Karel apek was born in 1890 in Bohemia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A weak and sickly boy, apek was pampered by his mother and protected by his older brother, Josef; they, together with his maternal grandmother, inspired him with a love for literature. Karel and Josef prepared themselves for a literary vocation by their prodigious reading in many foreign literatures; among Karel’s juvenilia are some verses influenced by Symbolism and the Decadents—French and Czech. Josef was to collaborate with Karel on some of his most celebrated successes, including R.U.R., but he was primarily a gifted artist, illustrator, and designer who gradually established himself as such,...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Karel apek (CHAH-pehk), a Czechoslovakian author and playwright, was born in 1890 in Malé Svatoovice, Bohemia, then still part of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. In a sense Karel rose and fell with his country, for his death at Prague on December 25, 1938, roughly coincided with the collapse of the young country. His last play, The Mother, was both against dictatorship and supportive of pacifism.apek, Karel[Capek, Karel]}apek, Karel[Capek, Karel]}apek, Karel[Capek, Karel]}

Although the sons of a doctor, Karel and his brother Josef followed their own inclinations, the latter known primarily as a painter but also as his brother’s able collaborator. Karel amazed the world and gave his country its most famous play with R.U.R.: Rossum’s Universal Robots—and left a lasting neologism, robot, in the world’s vocabulary. Expressionistic in technique, this brilliant play suggests that Rossum’s robots will replace humankind unless humanity rather than mechanization prevails. apek’s other plays, including those written in collaboration with his brother, also attacked modern trends and evils, but none measured up to the success of R.U.R.

The other text for which apek is noteworthy is his novel The War with the Newts, an allegorical satire. In the novel, humanity discovers a race of intelligent newts which it seeks to use as organic robots. In actuality, people bring about and aid in their own destruction by the newts, as the latter cause the continents of the earth to sink, thus giving them more room to expand their population. The message, as in R.U.R., is that humanity must carefully watch itself and its actions or it will bring about its own destruction. apek was a lifelong supporter of fiction that would reflect the world in which it was written. At a time when Europe was being undermined from within, apek’s novel was a plea for action before it was too late.

Among apek’s other writings are novels and several very good collections of short stories as well as witty and interesting journalism, collected in such volumes as Letters from Italy. He will be remembered chiefly, however, for his experimental plays which tried to convey a feeling of impending doom. Even though disguised, as in The Insect Play (or The World We Live In), apek’s view was that humankind’s greed and rapaciousness will bring on the annihilation of the species.


(Drama for Students)

Karel Capek Published by Gale Cengage

Karel Capek was born in January, 1890, in Male Svatonovice, a small village in northeastern Bohemia, an area that is now Czechoslovakia....

(The entire section is 428 words.)