Roger Kimball

Man of Distinctions

Believe in People: The Essential Karel Čapek


Faber & Faber 358pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

Jacques Barzun once observed that Walter Bagehot was ‘“well-known” without being known well’. Something similar, I suspect, might be said of the great Czech writer Karel Čapek (1890–1938). The Insect Play (1921), co-authored with his brother Josef, is a classic in the library of anti-totalitarian satire, as is the proto sci-fi fantasy War with the Newts (1936). Janáček adapted The Makropulos Case (1922) for the libretto of his 1926 opera, and Punch declared Čapek’s travel book Letters from England (1925) ‘the best book about our race since the Germania of Tacitus’.

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