Josef and Karel Capek

Josef and Karel Capek were the best known literary figures of liberated Czechoslovakia after 1918.

Josef won a considerable reputation as a painter of the Cubist school, later developing his own playful primitive style. He collaborated with his brother in composing sketches, stories, plays, as well as writing two short novels of his own and critical essays in which he defended the art of the unconscious, of children and of savages. Following Hitler's invasion of 1939, Josef Capek was sent to a German concentration camp. He died at Belsen in April 1945.

Karel Capek became a journalist and for a time stage manager of the theatre in Vinohrady. Olga Scheinpflugova, a prominent actress, was his wife. Though a writer of novels, visionary romances, travel books, stories, and essays, Karel is best known for his plays. The Insect Play took the world by storm and was performed to great acclaim in London and New York. This pessimistic allegory of man's rapaciousness and stupidity, as duplicated in the insect world, is as neatly contrived as it is uncomfortably true. R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), which introduced the word robot into the English language, conceives a future in which all workers will be automated. Their ultimate revolt when they acquire souls and the ensuing cotastrophe comprise an exciting, vivid theatrical experience. His last plays, written just before the entry of Hitler into Czechoslovakia, deal with the rise of dictatorship and the terrible consequences of war. Karel Capek died on Christmas Day, 1938.

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Plays by the Capeks


The Capeks' Plays

Other Works

Apocryphal Tales

The Gardener's Year

Nine Fairy Tales: And One More Thrown in for Good Measure

Tales from Two Pockets

War With the Newts

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