The Gardener's Year Book by Karel Capek, Josef Capek (ill), Geoffrey Newsome (trans) - review by Miranda Seymour

Miranda Seymour

Passion For Cultivation

The Gardener's Year Book

By

Claridge Press 200pp £12.99 order from our bookshop
 

KAREL CAPEK ACHIEVED international fame in 1923 when his play R.U.R. introduced the word robot into the Enghsh language in a blackly satirical vision of a world threatened by its automated workforce. The Capek brothers were already well known in their native Czechoslovakia, but Karel's disturbing science-fiction fantasy, The War with the Newts, is probably the work for which he is best remembered. Josef, whose enchanting and comical drawings illustrate ths book, dled at Belsen in 1945; Karel dled in 1938, the year in which Nazism put an end to the short-lived Czech independence which had been such a cause of rejoicing for the patriotic Capeks.

Such a politically minded couple might seem udkely collaborators on a study of horticulture, but The Gardener's Year Book, excellently translated by Geofiey Newsome, is a work of great charm and considerable subtlety which requires no more of the reader than a willingness to agree that it is a pleasant thing to own and cultivate a small patch of ground. Originally published as a series of articles in the 1920s, the book's lightly worn knowledge derives from the brothers' creation of a garden of their own for the house which they built together. It was,

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