From Library Journal
To expect the unexpected is sound advice for readers of the late Czech writer, especially in the collection of stories at hand. As in his delightful Tales from Two Pockets (LJ 6/1/94), Capek deals with the twin challenges of truth and justice. But while those stories were in the form of detective fiction, in these Capek draws upon events and characters from history, myth, religion, and literature, approaching familiar scenarios from new, imaginative perspectives, e.g., How did Jesus' famous miracle of the loaves and fishes affect local businessmen? Did Don Juan deserve his evil reputation? How did it feel to be in Pontius Pilate's sandals? In each tale, Capek, master of human psychology, demonstrates anew that times may change but human nature remains constant. Also included are the "Would-Be-Tales," charming narratives on the human condition, and a small selection of "Fables"?wonderfully ironic observations on life. Comrada's contemporary American translation adds to the appeal of this thought-provoking collection which belongs in most libraries.?Sister M. Anna Falbo, Villa Maria Coll. Lib., Buffalo, N.Y.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Catbird's project to publish plenty of the Czech master Capek (1890^-1938) in fluent new translations scores again. First collected in 1945, Capek's apocrypha report the perspectives of secondary participants in historic events, so Pilate gives his impressions of that Galilean prophet whose crucifixion he was obliged to order, and of movers and shakers disclosing their real motives, so Alexander the Great explains to Aristotle why he had to "secure for my Greek homeland her natural frontier on the coast of China." The little stories are masterpieces of moral irony and the tragic vision that sees heroism as not so much rare as improbable: Hamlet's indecision in Capek's version of the great soliloquy is not over whether to be and wreak vengeance but over whether to run away and become . . . an actor! And what Capek has an old Veronese tell a Shakespeare-admiring Englishman about what really happened to Romeo and Juliet points up the difference between legend and life. Aphorisms attributed to historical figures (which Capek called fables) and eight of Capek's Would-Be Tales--impressively including the Gogolesque "The Man Who Knew How to Fly" and "The Anonymous Letter"--fill out a radiant volume. Ray Olson