Literary Criticism

Excellence in Scholarship and Learning


Karel Čapek

In Pursuit of Truth, Tolerance and Trust

Bohuslava R. Bradbrook was born in Czechoslovakia and educated at the universities of Prague, Innsbruck and Oxford. She lives now in Cambridge, and is the author of numerous articles and reviews on Czech literature in scholarly journals, symposia and the Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century.

Karel Čapek is the most important, most versatile, but also the most neglected Czech writer in the twentieth century. His plays R.U.R. and “From the Life of Insects” created a sensation in London in the 1920s; his word “robot” was introduced into the Oxford English Dictionary while his other plays as well as novels, short stories, essays, and travelogues followed in English translations in quick succession until cultural links were broken off by the war. Because of his liberal, anti-war views Čapek’s works were blacklisted by the Nazis occupying his homeland, as well as later by the communists. Presenting a study of all genres Čapek used, B.R.B.’s book pays the debt history owes to Čapek.

Both as a writer and as a journalist, Čapek sought the truth: in the epistemological sense, how we acquire knowledge; in the moral one, how we apply it to our behaviour. Recognizing great differences between individuals, Čapek recommends tolerance and mutual trust as the best way towards the improvement of democratic human relations. His philosophical trilogy – Hordubal, Meteor and An Ordinary Life – is the best artistic expression of these ideas; as a journalist, he conveyed them explicitly. Čapek’s science fiction works show his admiration for the achievements of science and technology; he forecast the use of nuclear power, but strongly warned against its abuse. His readers particularly appreciated his common sense, wit and humour. Karel Čapek was a man who taught through laughter.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-898723-85-1
Hardback Price: $34.95
Release Date: December 1997
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-553-3
Paperback Price: £22.50 / $34.95
Release Date: July 2012
Page Extent / Format: 256 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: 8-page plate section plus other illustrations



I Biographical
II Early Writings
III The Dramatist
IV The Novelist
V The Short Story Writer
VI The Writer of Fairy Tales
VII The Essayist
VIII The Biographer
IX The Journalist


English and Original Czech Titles

A splendid volume.
Modern Language Review

The most comprehensive treatment of Čapek’s life and work, not only in English but in any language, including Czech. Bradbrook has helped to fill in a lacunae in English Czech studies.
William E. Harkins, Columbia University

The author has accomplished a singular feat… she has unequivocally convinced the reader to return to Karel Čapek’s works… to regain a literary paradise.
World Literature Today

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