Karel Capek is best known abroad for his plays, but at home he is also revered as an accomplished novelist, short-story writer, essayist, and writer of political articles. His bitingly satirical novel The War with the Newts (1936) reveals his understanding of the possible consequences of scientific advance. The novel Krakatit (1924), about an explosive that could destroy the world, foreshadows the feared potential of a nuclear disaster. In his numerous short stories he depicts the problems of modern life and common people in a humorous and whimsically philosophical fashion. The plays of Karel Capek presage the Theater of the Absurd. R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) (1921) was a satire on the machine age. He created the word robot from the Czech noun robota, meaning "work" for the human-made automatons who in that play took over the world, leaving only one human being alive. The Insect Comedy (1921), whose characters are insects, is an ironic fantasy on human weakness. The Makropoulos Secret (1923), later used as the basis for Leos Janacek's opera, was an experimental piece that questioned whether immortality is really desirable. All the plays have been produced successfully in New York. Most deal satirically with the modern machine age or with war. Underlying all his work, though, is a faith in humanity, truth, justice, and democracy, which has made him one of the most beloved of all Czech writers.
Verlyn Klinkenborg comes form a family of Iowa farmers. He is a member of the editorial board of The New York Times and has written for The New Yorker, Mother Jones, and Harper's. He lives on a small farm in upstate New York.
Karen Capekis widely considered the greatest Czech author of the first half of the twentieth century. A novelist, short-story writer, playwright, and essayist, he was a strong dissident voice during the period of fascist buildup in Europe between the World Wars. Most famous for his playR.U.R., which coined the word “robot,” he wrote a number of satires, as well as the utopian fantasy novelWar with the Newts. He died in 1938. Michael Pollanis the author of theNew York TimesbestsellerThe Botany of DesireandSecond Nature, named one of the best gardening books of the twentieth century by the American Horticultural Society. He is a contributing editor toHarper’smagazine and a contributing writer atThe New York Times Magazine. Pollan chose the books for the Modern Library Gardening series because, as he writes, “these writers are some of the great talkers in the rich, provocative, and frequently uproarious conversation that, metaphorically at least, has been taking place over the back fence of our gardens at least since the time of Pliny.”