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Čapek, Josef

Entry updated 25 March 2024. Tagged: Author, Theatre.

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(1887-1945) Painter, cartoonist, author and playwright born in the former Austria-Hungary of Czech parentage, older brother of Karel Čapek. As a painter he was active from around 1900, his work soon showing Cubist influences, moving in the 1920s towards representational idioms, which he sampled variously; though he published in his own right, his pre-World War One career as a writer was mostly conducted in collaboration with his ultimately more fluent brother, with whom he remained on exceedingly good terms until Karel died in 1938. They often published as Bratří Čapkové ["The Brothers Čapek"], and are warmly portrayed together by David Herter in The Luminous Depths (2008), the second volume of his First Republic Trilogy, where Josef is seen as a significant figure in his own right. After 1920, their collaborative work was restricted to plays: Že života hmyzu (1921; adapted by Nigel Playfair and Clifford Bax from Paul Selver's unpublished trans as And So Ad Infinitum (The Life of the Insects): An Entomological Review 1923 chap UK) [for details see Checklist below and see Karel Čapek]; and Adam stvořitel (1927; trans Dora Round as Adam the Creator: A Comedy in Six Scenes and an Epilogue 1929), a Satire in which God permits Adam – whose totalizing hatred of compromise satirizes contemporary forms of "enlightenment" like Communism – to destroy the world with his "cannon of negation" and to start again. The new world is as "bad" as the old.

According to his brother [whom see for further details on R.U.R.], he invented the term Robot in 1920. As an anti-Fascist, he was arrested by the Nazis on 1 September 1939, though not being Jewish he was not murdered then; after six years in concentration camps, Josef Čapek died in Bergen-Belsen, days before liberation [JC]

Josef Čapek

born Hronov, Kingdom of Bohemia, Austro-Hungarian Empire [now Czech Republic]: 23 March 1887

died Bergen-Belsen, Germany: April 1945

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