He Turned Them Into Newts! It Gets Better . . .


War with the Newts by Karel Capek falls into a small but illustrious category: Super Excellent Books I've Read by Czech Authors (the other five books that reside there are Kafka's The Castle and his parallel work The Trial, Josef Svorecky's The Miracle Game, Jaroslav Hasek's The Good Soldier Svejk, and Milan Kundera's The Joke) and I would have never heard of this one if it wasn't for a random recommendation by a friend over at Gheorghe (thanks Zoltan!) and I'm not sure how I made it nearly forty years without reading this . . . it's about a race of intelligent salamanders that undergo a population explosion due to the meddling of humans and the social, political, and geographical consequences of enslaving these newts so they can perform undersea construction, and then eventually educating, arming, and trading with the newts in a natural progression of amphibious advancement until-- in the last four chapters-- the title finally becomes an inevitability; the book was published in 1936, and it satirizes the post World War I political milieu as well as just about everything else, and it is loads more fun the Brave New World, and satirical like Vonnegut, and humorous like Charles Portis and David Foster Wallace, and-- as Monty Python can attest-- no matter how many times you hear the word "newt," it's always funny.

2 comments:

zoltan said...

Older translations are titled "War with the Efts" but "newt" is funnier so they went with that later on.

Dave said...

efts are the stage of a newt with dry scaly skin that live on land, so that wouldn't work anatomically either . . .

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