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‘War with the Newts’ (1936) is Karel Capek'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 the work no human wants to do, and can fight - but the humans have given no thought to the terrible consequences of their actions.
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An unjustly forgotten masterpiece of anti-utopian fantasy that is possibly the equal of Orwell's Animal Farm. Capek writes of an avaricious Dutch seaman who discovers a race of bipedal and intelligent newts in Sumatra that is initially lauded as the equal of the human race, but that is subsequently conscripted into the service of man and then . . . By turns hilarious and grim, but consistently and scathingly insightful into the nature of human nature, and a book that you simply must read. Very Highest Recommendation.
(Editor's Note: When Karel Capek is mentioned by English-speaking critics, it is usually in a parenthetical comment that it was he who introduced the term "Robot" into contemporary literature, in a brilliant play about robot rebellion, Rossum's Universal Robots, currently only available in several anthologies, such as Toward the Radical Center.)From the Back Cover:
Working in the 'fantastic' satiric tradition of Wells, Orwell, and Vonnegut, Capek chronicles the discovery of a colony of highly intelligent giant salamanders off the coast of an Indonesian island.
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