Tag Archives: Karel Čapek

Top 5 reads of 2012

So I haven’t quite finished catching up with the last of my 2012 books that need reviewing, but since none of them are going to make an appearance on either my 5 Best or 5 Worst lists this year I thought I’d just plow on and get these up.

2012 was a pretty good year for books for me, I managed to fit more books in than I have for a very long time, and I enjoyed almost all  of them – which is always good! That should probably make any ‘top 5’ of 2012 a quite difficult task, but when I actually got down to looking over the books I’d read this year the standouts were obvious. These were the books that I really loved, not just enjoyed, but ones that found a special place in my heart and that I will happily try to force on any and all acquaintances. So, in no particular order: Continue reading


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War With the Newts, Karel Čapek

War With the Newts  by Karel Čapek

Translators: M. Weatherall, R. Weatherall
Penguin Classics
Pages: 348 (Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: Standalone


War with the Newts (1936) is Karel Čapek’s darkly humorous allegory of early twentieth-century Czech politics. Captain van Toch discovers a colony of newts in Sumatra which can not only be taught to trade and use tools. but also to speak.

As the rest of the world learns of the creatures and their wonderful capabilities, it is clear that this new species is ripe for exploitation – they can be traded in their thousands, will do work no human wants to do, and can fight – but the humans have given no thought to the terrible consequences of their actions.

A very serious contender for my favourite book this year (currently competing against We, The Drowned), I’m having a really hard time thinking what to say about this one. It really is true that positive reviews are harder to write than negative ones, add to this that this is a very complex novel – touching on themes of slavery, fascism, racism, capitalism, exploitation, class conflict, the european arms race, economics, trade unions, human experimentation, the ‘civilising’ mission, the ineffectiveness of the League of Nations, Nazi theories of ‘Lebensraum’ and a hell of a lot more – and the unconventional way it’s written and, well…there’s either too much to say or too little, because there’s simply so much stuff I feel I should be better informed on before I could possibly talk about them. And then the blurb tells me that it’s an allegory for 1930s Czech politics in  and I start feeling even more inadequate in my ability to comment!

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