The page of Čapek, Karel, English biography
Karel Čapek (January 9, 1890 – December 25, 1938) was one of the most influential Czech writers of the 20th century, and a Nobel Prize nominee (1936). He introduced and made popular the frequently used international word robot, which first appeared in his play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) in 1921. Karel named his brother Josef Čapek as the true inventor of the word robot.
Čapek was born in Malé Svatoňovice, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary (now Czech Republic).
Karel Čapek wrote with intelligence and humor on a wide variety of subjects. His works are known for their interesting and precise descriptions of reality, and Čapek is renowned for his excellent work with the Czech language. He is perhaps best known as a science fiction author, who wrote long before science fiction became established as a separate genre. He can be considered one of the founders of classical, non-hardcore European science fiction, a type which focuses on possible future (or alternative) social and human evolution on Earth, rather than technically advanced stories of space travel. However, it is best to classify him with Aldous Huxley and George Orwell as a mainstream literary figure who used science-fiction motifs.
Many of his works discuss ethical and other aspects of revolutionary inventions and processes that were already anticipated in the first half of 20th century. These include mass production, atomic weapons, and post-human intelligent beings such as robots or intelligent salamanders.
In addressing these themes, Čapek was also expressing fear of impending social disasters, dictatorship, violence, and the unlimited power of corporations, as well as trying to find some hope for human beings. Čapek's literary heirs include Ray Bradbury, Salman Rushdie, Brian Aldiss and Dan Simmons.
His other books and plays include detective stories, novels, fairy tales and theatre plays, and even a book on gardening. His most important works attempt to resolve problems of epistemology, to answer the question: "What is knowledge?" Examples include "The Tales from Two Pockets", and first book of all the trilogy of novels Hordubal, Meteor, and An Ordinary Life.
Later, in the 1930s, Čapek's work focused on the threat of brutal Nazi and fascist dictatorships. His most productive years coincided with the existence of the first republic of Czechoslovakia (1918-1938). He wrote Talks with Tomáš Masaryk--Masaryk was a Czech patriot, the first President of Czechoslovakia, and a regular guest at Čapek's Friday garden parties for Czech patriots. This extraordinary relationship between the author and the political leader may be unique, and was an inspiration for Václav Havel. He also became a member of International PEN.
Soon after it became clear that the Western allies had refused to help defend Czechoslovakia against Hitler, Čapek refused to leave his country--despite the fact that the Gestapo had named him Czechoslovakia's "public enemy number 2." Karel Čapek died of double pneumonia on December 25, 1938, shortly after part of Bohemia was annexed by Nazi Germany following the so-called Munich Agreement. He was interred in the Vyšehrad cemetery in Prague. His brother Josef Čapek, a painter and writer, died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
After the war, Čapek's work was reluctantly accepted by the Communist regime of Czechoslovakia, because during his life he had refused to accept a communist utopia as a viable alternative to the threat of Nazi domination.