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War with the Newts Paperback – 10 Aug 2001


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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Catbird Press,U.S.; New edition edition (10 Aug 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0945774109
  • ISBN-13: 978-0945774105
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 190,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A great writer of the past who speaks to the present in a voice brilliant, clear, honourable, blackly funny and prophetic (Kurt Vonnegut)

His satire still packs a punch, and the storytelling is brilliant. (The Times)

This [series] is a wonderful idea ... They are absurdist parables, by turns hilarious, unsettling and enigmatic. (Nicholas Lezard Guardian)

[The series] sheds remarkable light on the literature, culture and politics of the region...anyone coming fresh to the field will be captivated by the richness, variety, humour and pathos of a classic literature that, through a shared historical experience, transcends national and linguistic boundaries. (CJ Schüler Independent on Sunday)

I urge you to go and read them. (Adam Thirlwell New Statesman)

This new series of Central European Classics is important well beyond simply providing 'good reads'. (Stephen Vizinczey Daily Telegraph) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Karel Capek (1890-1938) was a central figure in pre-War Czech culture and a social satirist and science-fiction writer of genius. His major works include War with the Newts, The Makropoulos Affair (the basis for Janacek's opera), Nine Fairy Tales: And One More Thrown in for Good Measure, Insect Play and R.U.R., which introduced the term 'robot'. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 April 2005
Format: Paperback
and Saw a Beast Rise up Out of the Sea.
This apocalyptic vision is a fitting introduction to Karel Capek's dystopian masterpiece, War With the Newts. Capek described in an interview how the idea for War With The Newts came to him and serves as a good synopsis of the book:
"I had written the sentence, 'You mustn't think that the evolution that gave rise to us was the only evolutionary possibility on this planet. . . . that cultural developments could be shaped through the mediation of another animal species. If the biological conditions were favorable, some civilization not inferior to our own could arise in the depths of the sea. . . . Would it do the same stupid things mankind has done? Would it invite the same historical calamities? What would we say if some animal other than man declared that its education and its numbers gave it the sole right to occupy the entire world and hold sway over all creation?" Out of this thought process War With the Newts Was Born.
The plot is straightforward. The master of a steamer, Captain van Toch, comes across a rather curious breed of newts in an isolated lagoon near Sumatra. He discovers that they are intelligent and capable of communication. They lack, however, the ability to open easily oysters for food because of their short arms. He takes a knife and shows them how to use it. Next thing you know they have used his knife to open thousands of oysters, enough to provide the newts with food and the Captain with a large supply of pearls. Captain van Toch takes groups of newts and plants them in lagoons across the coastlines and lagoons of Asia. They are extraordinarily industrious. Before long newts become a worldwide rage. Every nation in the world uses newts to perform Herculean tasks of underwater and coastal development.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sporus on 9 Aug 2010
Format: Paperback
"What's it about?" everyone asks when they see this book. For once it's what is says on the can: it's about a war with the newts. They're large newts, of course, and smart with it. It's even rumoured that they can talk; but then so can parrots (so there's no reason not to dissect them). Capek (1890-1938) has something of the aloof, surreal and slightly dark humour that is a Czech trademark. An impressively balanced and informed soul, he should have had a place in the pantheon of 'serious' writers who dabbled in Sci-fi (Wells, Huxley, Orwell... even E.M.Forster) before it fell out of favour with the literati. Renowned in his day, Kapec's legitimate call on posterity was rejected by the Nazis and ignored by the Communists. He's referenced in 'Star Trek' because he was the first writer to use the word 'robot' (although evidently it was his painter brother who suggested the word). Well done to Penguin, then, for resuscitating him in this sturdy (ie slightly mechanical) translation. It begins as an attractive Conradian narrative; then mutates into a record (told largely in press cuttings and 'historical' synopses) of the way that the world's nations first exploit and then succumb to a rapidly spawning, salt water 'super-newt' that is discovered in the Batu archipelago. It's a satire, in fact, on science, business, and national politics. Like a lot of satires it loses pace as its scope broadens and eventually the dramatic element segues into whimsy as the 'message' is spelt out (which makes for a curious comparison with 'District 9' - a movie with related ideas - that does the opposite). The book's vision of the 'future' is marred by the values of early 20th C. Central Europe (the global significance of North America is under-estimated; while China is wiped out in a pen stroke!Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. D. Swann on 7 July 2010
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most entertaining and thought provoking books I have read in very long time. What is so remarkable about it is that despite the fact it was written between the two wars, the concepts and terminology used by Capek could be straight out of the 21st century. It can be read on any number of levels from which various significant events or periods in world history easily spring to mind. These could include the slave trade of 18th and 19th centuries,the Nazi suppression of the Jews, the US civil rights movement, and the the runaway technological advances of the 20th and 21st centuries to name but some. Parallels to all of these can be found in the book, though at the time Capek wrote his novel some of them wouldn't even have happened. This is a satire at its very best in which colonies of giant Newts develop an intelligence to rival and even exceed that of mankind, who then attempts to exploit this for his own ends. Eventually it all unravels through man's own inability to realise what he is doing and as a result becomes truly unstuck. Capek has a go at capitalism, science, religion and attempts at social engineering among other things. Above all, he starkly depicts the futility of striving for the creation of a utopian society and demonstrates that even though nations may like to think they have the best and most altruistic intentions, in the end self interest and greed will always prevail. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes something a bit different.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 April 2005
Format: Paperback
and Saw a Beast Rise up Out of the Sea.
This apocalyptic vision is a fitting introduction to Karel Capek's masterpiece, War With the Newts.
The plot is straightforward. The master of a tramp steamer, Captain van Toch, comes across a rather curious breed of newts in an isolated lagoon near Sumatra. He discovers that they are intelligent and capable of communication. They lack, however, the ability to open easily oysters for food because of their short arms. He takes a knife and shows them how to use it. Next thing you know they have used his knife to open thousands of oysters, enough to provide the newts with food and the Captain with a large supply of pearls. Captain van Toch takes groups of newts and plants them in lagoons across the coastlines and lagoons of Asia. They are extraordinarily industrious. Before long newts become a worldwide rage. Every nation in the world uses newts to perform Herculean tasks of underwater and coastal development. The newts do not demand salaries. They merely ask for heavy equipment and munitions to facilitate these underwater projects. In short order the manufacture and supply of arms and equipment for newts becomes the single most important part of the world's economy.
Despite some increasingly violent skirmishes between newts and man no nation is willing to cease providing weapons to the newts. Before long the newts revolt, led by the Great Salamander (an apparent parody of Hitler), and announce that they will start destroying the earth, continent by continent in order to provide more coastline for the growing newt population. Despite this threat the nations of the earth continue to provide arms to the newts. The resultant battle is over quickly.
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