Karel Čapek Short Fiction Analysis
Karel and Josef apek frequently collaborated in their writing. Their early collection The Luminous Depths is a collaboration, although some of the stories in it were the sole work of Karel. The stories in this collection are charged with a forceful vitality. They affirm that life is worthwhile but then question whether humans are capable of appreciating the value of life. The collection begins with a cynical and ironic tone but soon moves toward optimism. Before the end, however, the tone is clearly pessimistic as the apeks consider the status of humans in society and their ability to adapt naturally to their lots.
The metaphysical tales in apek’s collection Bozímuka reflect the author’s delving into aesthetics, particularly the aesthetics of French philosopher Henri Bergson. They are also much influenced by the pragmatism of American educator and philosopher William James. Karel published Pragmatismus (1918) shortly after this collection and published his doctoral dissertation Musaion (1920-1921), which focused on aesthetics.
The tales in Bozímuka, among his deepest and most serious work philosophically, are precursors of some of apek’s later science-fiction writing. They raise doubts about Bergson’s optimism and James’s pragmatism. apek was searching for absolutes that neither Bergson nor James could provide. This collection, reflecting apek’s pessimism resulting largely from his concerns about World War I, reveal his sadness, indeed his personal agony, at failing in his search for God.
The collaborative Krakonoova zahrada is less reflective than Bozímuka. It is a collection of the brothers’ earlier writing to which they added an autobiographical preface. Much of the folklore they learned at their mother’s knee is found in the tales included in this collection. The preface reveals two gifted young men who contemplate devoting their lives to literature.
apek’s next collection, Money, and Other Stories, is often regarded as his most pessimistic work, although it moves beyond Bozímuka, suggesting that if the search for God is futile, then a renewed sympathy for humankind is a logical alternative. The establishment of a new humanitarianism is clearly the thrust of this volume. Its tales reflect a relative rather than an absolute judgment of human actions.
apek’s later collections, often focusing on crime and detective work, are less philosophical than these seminal early works. The former grew largely out of his work as a journalist, yet nevertheless go beyond being mere detective fiction. Allegorically they deal...
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