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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful
This is terrific!I think Capek is the most underrated writer of the century{at least}.He's comparatively little known,and seldom given credit even for the word "robot" which he "invented".He's got it all-humor,lovely language{it even shines through in a translation},delightful stile,and more... And he's not just a great writer,but a great...
Published on September 1, 1999

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Flawed in translation
Capek is a brilliant and creative writer, whose musings are well worth careful translation into English. Sadly, this edition's been insensitively translated, with characters forced into the type of "working-stiff" American English that Isaac Asimov does so badly (and Bruce Springsteen does so well by avoiding a patronising tone). The Damon Runyanesque argot sits...
Published on July 31, 2007 by Amazon Customer


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful, September 1, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Apocryphal Tales (Paperback)
This is terrific!I think Capek is the most underrated writer of the century{at least}.He's comparatively little known,and seldom given credit even for the word "robot" which he "invented".He's got it all-humor,lovely language{it even shines through in a translation},delightful stile,and more... And he's not just a great writer,but a great playwright,too-his "Macropulos Affair" and "R.U.R" are classics.Warmly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History of the World: From a Slightly Different Angle, August 22, 2004
By 
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Apocryphal Tales (Paperback)
Karel Capek was a giant of Czech cultural and political life in the years of the first Czech Republic between WWI and WWII. Èapek rose to fame as the author of RUR, the play that introduced the word robot to the world. He was also the author of the highly acclaimed novel War With the Newts and a newspaper essayist. His life and work during this period was inextricably linked with belief in democracy upon which the First Republic was founded. Capek's devout faith in democracy informed both his world view and his writing. This is particularly evident in his Apocryphal Tales. This edition also contains a group of stories known as the Would Be Tales. Generally, these stories were originally published in Czech newspapers or literary journals.

Apocryphal Tales is a journey through the history of the world. In a series of short stories from the discovery of fire through Napoleon, Capek presents a little vignette with a viewpoint slightly different from our received wisdom. The tales begin with the Punishment of Prometheus, in which Prometheus is sentenced to death for his discovery of fire. The grounds: blasphemy; damaging the property of others; and treason. Next, an old cave man bemoans the audacity and idleness of the younger generation, wasting their time drawing bison and other creatures on cave walls. A solider complains about Achilles' vain striving for glory in doing battle with Troy. Next we come across a letter from Alexander the Great to Aristotle in which he tries to explain to his old teacher that his desire to conquer the world is based purely on the need to more properly defend his small homeland. When one considers that this last piece was written in 1937 the tale is as much a cautionary note as it is a simple story. The Death of Archimedes is also prescient. Written in April, 1938, it shows a conquering Roman soldier trying to convince Archimedes that he would do well to turn his scientific skills to the construction of weapons of mass destruction. Archimedes refuses and the story ends thusly: "It was later reported that the learned Archimedes had met his death through an accident." This last sentence tracked the official language used in reports issued by totalitarian regimes after it had killed one of its so-called enemies.

The Tales include a series of stories involving the life and death of Jesus, each told from a slightly different perspective. The miracle of the loaves and fishes is told from the point of view of a baker whose primary concern is the impact the miracle will have on the price of his bread. After the crucifixion, two Hebrew locals debate the error of Jesus' methods although not his message. In another, Pilate engages in a dialogue with Joseph of Arimathea over the political implications of the crucifixion. Their dialogue on "what is truth" still resonates long after I finished reading it. Èapek also invokes fictional characters, Romeo & Juliet, and Hamlet in two humorous sagas.

Capek's `would-be' tales are written in a similar style but are written in a contemporary setting. The most compelling of these are the last two, Anonymous Letter and Ten Centavos. In the first, a writer who has produced articles supporting the consumption of cheese is the subject of a hate mail campaign. Ten Centavos involves the horror of an honorable man being publicly besmirched by an avenging state. These stories must surely have had some resonance for Èapek as, as his life neared its end in 1938, he became subject to vicious attacks from some who held him partly responsible for the fate that was about to befall Czechoslovakia.

These are all beautiful stories told in simple narrative form. It has been said of Capek that his deep belief in democracy made him want to present his ideas to be accessible to anyone who could read. I do not know this to be the case but the spirit of Capek's stories shine through readily. These stories would be appreciated by anyone interested in short stories whether or not they have a specific interest in Czech literature. This collection is well worth reading.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Political satires set safely in the distant past, July 25, 2002
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This review is from: Apocryphal Tales (Paperback)
This is a collection of short pieces from the Czechoslovakian author of "R.U.R." (the futuristic play in which he coined the term 'robot') who stands out as a calming voice among the chaos of Central Europe in the early 20th Century. The bulk of this volume is comprised of tight, pointed retellings of stories from classical literature: the Greeks, the Bible, and even Shakespeare. By taking a unique slant on some well-known stories, usually with humorous or sardonic overtones, Capek creates modern fables with clearly implied morals that provide practical advice for even the most contemporary readers. Themes range from fear of change, and the importance of the work ethic, to contempt for mob mentality. By placing these tales in the distant past, he is able to present specific political arguments without too openly offending the powers-of-the-moment. With his warm humanism, pointed humor, and continuing sociopolitical relevance, Capek should be a great favorite of fans of such political humorists as Art Buchwald and Jimmy Breslin. With the re-emergence of Eastern/Central Europe from communist domination, it's not too much to hope that Capek's work will soon enjoy the reputation it so richly deserves.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Flawed in translation, July 31, 2007
This review is from: Apocryphal Tales (Paperback)
Capek is a brilliant and creative writer, whose musings are well worth careful translation into English. Sadly, this edition's been insensitively translated, with characters forced into the type of "working-stiff" American English that Isaac Asimov does so badly (and Bruce Springsteen does so well by avoiding a patronising tone). The Damon Runyanesque argot sits uncomfortably with the Central European setting of these tales and for me renders them unreadable. Such a great opportunity missed! Such a terrible thing to do to great literature! PLEASE edit the translation into something resembling English....then I'll buy 3 copies and tell all my friends to get it. As of now....no.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short stories from Karel Capek, September 5, 2008
This review is from: Apocryphal Tales (Paperback)
Karel Capek is one of the greatest writers of the first half of the 20th century. Too bad the Swedish Academy of Science was too afraid of Hitler to award Capek the Nobel Prize for Literature. Anyhow, Capek's apocryphal tales are a nice collection of short stories on a variety of topic, many of them taking a clever and humorous approach to stories we know.

Perhaps the most interesting tale Capek tells in this work is the story of "Five Loaves." This is about the biblical account of Jesus blessing five loaves of bread and feeding the crowd of five thousand with them. The story is told by an angry baker who first liked and in fact loved Jesus and His teaching, but when he saw how His miracle threatened his business he quickly changed is mind. It's brilliant and makes you think of biblical stories in a different light.

Not all the tales are as interesting as this one, but they are worth reading. Capek's writing in Czech is so brilliant that it's difficult to translate and not lose some of that brilliance.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming, inventive, thought-provoking add-ons to history, April 6, 2013
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This review is from: Apocryphal Tales (Kindle Edition)
I live in Prague when I am between jobs, and have been fortunate to visit the Capek house. I knew only that the Capek brothers invented the word ROBOT, and wrote children's books before I had the Apocryhphal Tales recommened to me. I immediately fell in love with all the segments--each are 'what else happened' parts of well-known legends and real life stories. For example, "What did Pilate talk about that isn't in the Bible?" And so on.
Short, easy to read, recognizable, thought-provoking. An introduction to a Czech writer besides Kafka!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not engaging, December 1, 2012
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This review is from: Apocryphal Tales (Paperback)
Perhaps this book became dated, as several of the short stories seem to have been intended as political satires, which may not be so relevant anymore.

Perhaps there is a problem with the translation, as it was suggested by one of the reviewers here.

Or perhaps it's just a question of personal taste. The fact is, I didn't like it. It doesn't seem to have been written with the intent of engaging the reader. It's rather a collection of very short stories - 36 in 175 pages - in which even the humor and the witticism did not convince me.

I would have difficulty in pointing out a single very good story, in my opinion. Some of them I found OK, and some I read without any pleasure.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Apocryptical Tales, April 17, 2014
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This review is from: Apocryphal Tales (Paperback)
Short historic episodes told with twists, written by the eminent Check writer Karel Chapek during 1920 to 1938. Clever and entertaining.
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Apocryphal Tales
Apocryphal Tales by Karel Capek (Paperback - April 1, 1997)
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