Karel Čapek – Your Invisible Mentor
Karel Čapek was a prolific Czech writer penning novels, plays and essays. He introduced the word ‘robot’ in his play, R. U. R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which opened in Prague in 1921, and staged in London in 1923. He is one of the best-known Czech literary figures of the 1920s and 1930s. He studied philosophy at the Czech University of Prague, which is evident in some of his later writings.
Name: Karel Čapek
Birth Date: January 9, 1890 – December 25, 1938
Job Functions: Novelist, Playwright, Essayist, and Journalist
Known For: R. U. R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), Karel Čapek’s play, which introduced the word robot to the world.
I decided to profile Karel Čapek because he introduced the world to the word ‘robot’ – derived from the Czech word robota, which means hard work or forced labor – in his play, R. U. R. The word robot was actually coined by his brother Josef. The two brothers collaborated for several years. In addition to studying philosophy, Čapek attended lectures on art and aesthetics. He was influenced by science fiction writer, HG Wells (Review: The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man), which is evident in some of his literary works.
To get the most from The Invisible Mentor Profile of Karel Čapek, while you are reading the profile in wisdom, reflectively answer the following questions:
- What can you learn from the person profiled?
- Look at the way you currently do your job, are there ideas from the profile that could help you to become more efficient?
- After reading the profile, what is one concrete action you can take?
- What are your five takeaways from the profile?
- How do the concepts in the profile relate to what you already know?
- How can you combine key ideas from the profile to what you already know to create a new idea?
Although Karel Čapek is not well-known in the West, he left behind an impressive body of his writings. His writing life is divided into three creative phases. I have not included all of his works, only a sample.
First Creative Phase of Writing (1908 – 1921)
During part of this phase of his creative writing, Čapek collaborated with his brother Josef. They produced two volumes of short fiction, which are burlesque tales, anecdotes, and feuilletons (A short literary essay or sketch, or a light, popular work of fiction).
- Luminous Depths, 1916
- The Garden of Krakonos, 1918
Other literary works during that period for Čapek includes:
- Wayside Crosses, 1917, is a collection of short stories that are about modern civilization.
- Painful Stories (Money and Other Stories), 1921, is another collection of short stories that deals with middle class life, and most of characters are characterized as helpless victims and the theme of money is evident in the stories in this collection.
Second Creative Phase of Writing (1921 – 1932)
In this phase of his creative writing, Čapek comes into his own as a dramatist, novelist, journalist, and travel writer.
- From the Insect World (The World We Live In), 1921, is written in collaboration with his brother and is a comedy about the post-war situation in the world.
- R. U. R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), 1921, (a play that presents artificial beings (robots) used as slaves who rise up against their masters)
- The Gardener’s Year, 1922 (humor)
- Factory for the Absolute, 1922 (scientific fantasy novels)
- The Makropulos Affair, 1922 (examines the elixir of life)
- Krakatit, 1924 (scientific fantasy novels)
- Letters from England, 1925 (travel book)
- Letters from Italy, 1929 (travel book)
- Tales from One Pocket, 1929 (detective story)
- Tales from the Other Pocket, 1929 (detective story)
- Letters from Spain, 1930 (travel book)
- Fairy Tales, 1931 (storytelling that reveals his sense of humor and understanding of childhood)
Third Creative Phase of Writing (1932 – 1938)
Čapek relies on his study of philosophy to produce a trilogy which first appeared in serial form in the newspaper. The novels in this trilogy investigate epistemology and identity, which shows that the human personality is made up of many elements.
- Hordubal, 1933 (Part I)
- Meteor, 1934 (Part II)
- An Ordinary Life (Three Novels: Hordubal, Meteor, An Ordinary Life), 1934 (Part III)
- President Masaryk Tells His Story, 1934 (Biography of Tomás Masaryk, founder and first president of Czechoslovakia)
- The War With The Newts (Illustrated Edition), 1936 (modern epic that looks at the nature of totalitarian power)
- Power and Glory (The White Plague), 1937 (drama that deals with the impact of the Spanish Civil War and the threat of Adolph Hitler)
- The Mother, 1938 (drama that deals with the impact of the Spanish Civil War and the threat of Adolph Hitler)
- Masaryk’s Thought and Life, 1938 (Biography of Masaryk)
Without a doubt, Karel Čapek is a talented writer who had an illustrious career. You seldom find a writer who has the ability to cross so many genres in their literary works. He also used his writing to express his feeling about what was going on in his external environment. His biggest step to success is being consistent in creating work that matters. The main lesson we can learn from him is to practice our craft, whatever that may be.
I think Čapek remained creative because he crossed genres which varied the pace of his writing. Fast Company’s article, “Why You Need a Creative Shift Instead Of a Vacation, As Explained by Joss Whedon” demonstrates this notion.
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Book links are affiliate links.
Encyclopedia of World Biography
Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction
Reference Guide to World Literature
What is a Robot?
“The robot turns 85,”AI Magazine, Fall 2006