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War with the Newts
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War with the Newts

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  10,284 ratings  ·  904 reviews
One of the great anti-utopian satires of the twentieth century, an inspiration to writers from Orwell to Vonnegut, at last in a modern translation. Man discovers a species of giant, intelligent newts and learns to exploit them so successfully that the newts gain skills and arms enough to challenge man's place at the top of the animal kingdom. Along the way, Karel Capek sat ...more
Kindle Edition, Gateway Essentials, 294 pages
Published January 30th 2014 by Gateway (first published 1936)
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Emma Certainly there's an element of Nazism in the newts' desire for living space near the end of the novel, but I'd argue the book is really a satire of m…moreCertainly there's an element of Nazism in the newts' desire for living space near the end of the novel, but I'd argue the book is really a satire of mankind and civilisation more generally! There's a sense of humans unknowingly orchestrating their own doom which is somewhat applicable to alternative and even contemporary catastrophes such as climate change (contemporary to the time as well as now, as there were already plenty of anxieties around industrialisation and man's impact on the planet). I would argue that the slavery of the newts and their proposed use as a mine of raw materials is much more to do with mankind's colonisation of the natural world rather than a straight Nazism allegory.(less)
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Faking News! Newts Trump Humans!

I'd become rather blasé when it comes to apocalyptic science fiction. I thought I knew them all, those brave new worlds that writers invent to symbolise the immediate danger of human self-destruction out of sheer stupidity?

Think again, Lisa!

The newts invited me to the ultimate, unexpected, completely logical fantasy, containing it ALL. Welcome to a roller coaster of the hilarious kind!

Does it start with the end of the world as we know it, with the destruction of
Mario the lone bookwolf
How often this setting has already been used is difficult to say, but the classic evil suppression for maximum profit is as old as humanity. Innocent creatures that are enslaved by the Salamander Syndicate in a technocratic world dominated by economic interests, fanatism and intolerance.

Comparable to Orwells´Animal Farm, Capek describes the cruel exploitation and its possible consequences. Social criticism, fantasy and Sci-Fi combine to a book that was unique in its time and is written with so m
Glenn Russell
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

It’s war! Humans versus newts. And odds favor a newt victory since a number of key factors work in their favor: newts can continue fighting even after losing two-thirds of their internal organs; newts are absolute realists and make highly disciplined soldiers since they are not bogged down by things like fantasy or humor or lofty ideas; the current population of these creatures standing four foot high when walking upright on their hind legs has reached over twenty billion, outnumbering humans te
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: slavic, sci-fi
We’re Here Because You Were There

Not many go unscathed in the comic sarcasm of The War with the Newts: most European nationalities (Dutch and Czech in particular), Americans (especially Hollywood types and Yale alumni), most Asians, religious enthusiasts (including Jews, Catholics, and militant atheists), and all seamen, academics, and newspapermen are castigated by Čapek without mercy. But his primary target is the emerging global capitalism of the early 20th century. I doubt any other work of
Nov 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who has enough working brain cells to understand satire
Recommended to Lilo by: Charley Ada
Satire is my favorite genre. And this book is a gem.

Nowhere have I ever found a better description of homo sapiens’s boundless greed, bigotry, stunning thoughtlessness, and utter stupidity.

This book leaves no parts, levels or facets of society unscathed. Karel Capek satirizes science, academia, education, business, politics, fascism, communism, militarism, law, religion, philosophy, racism, journalism, and just about every trait of human nature one can think of. Yet it isn’t all funny. It is als
Spencer Orey
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those bizarre masterpieces that nobody could ever get published today. It's a really bleak but clever and thoughtful take on an idea that then sees that idea allllll the way through. And its sharp politics mostly hold up!

I admire the commitment here to thinking a scenario out so fully. Like seriously it thinks it all the way through, even jumping styles through international newspaper stories that tell short and touching human life stories that also advance the general story. At
H.M. Ada
Aug 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
A Dutch sea captain discovers intelligent, human-sized newts in a remote island bay.

So he does what anyone would do and tells somebody with money. The Newts are then put to work building harbors and extending coastlines, and hilarity ensues. Well, for the most part. There is a war at the end of this book. Racism is also a major theme, both directly and allegorically through humanity's treatment of the Newts.

The humor is sarcastic and in a few places dark. It skewers all elements of society:
Tyler Jones
1985 was the worst year of my life. The previous summer our family had moved from Calgary to Saskatoon and I had left behind a group of very close friends. I had just graduated high school and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I did know that I would rather go to school than get a job, so for perhaps the first time in my life I really applied myself academically in a last ditch effort to get accepted into University. I pulled off a 99% in a summer school Chemistry class, which must ...more
MJ Nicholls
Having impulsively nabbed this from the library, to return home and see Robert’s tip about reading a later translation (Penguin Classics ed. is a facsimile of the Weatherall from 1938, replete with arcane spellings), I entered the novel wearily, to be won over by the first-rate Swiftian brilliance pirouetting from each page like Darcey Bussle doing The Hustle. Making use of newspaper clippings, excerpts from academic studies, letters to the editor and so on in the second book, the novel is also ...more
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: author-czech, scifi
Subtle, satiric, black, poignant, fiendishly clever.
A species of newts are discovered which are intelligent and soon are able to talk and be trained as underwater workers for man. Naturally they are seen as commodities to be traded and utilised basically as slave labour. As they grow in numbers and gain knowledge they are used as armed forces by various nations. Eventually their might threatens mankind.
The cleverness of the tale is the author's understanding of man-kind's foibles. Capek throws b
Jul 24, 2011 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fantasy and science-fiction fans, the oppressed and downtrodden and newts everywhere
Great fun.

The story of mankind's downfall and destruction as caused by human hubris.

The tensions and ambitions of Imperialist Europe find new expression once a species of super-newt is discovered. This is expressed in Oswald Spengler style musings and a re-imaging of the super-newts as having the characteristics of the empires that employ them. To the surprise of all the newts eventually turn against the humans, but in a nice touch they hire human lawyers to represent their interests at the pea
A Dutch captain discovers giant talking newts on a remote island and teaches them to use tools, fight off predators, and collect pearls for him. They are eventually exploited by international corporations and the newts challenge man's place at the top of the animal kingdom.

Capek covers a multitude of issues and subjects in this wonderful satire -- capitalism, militarism, racism, and even Hollywood. A great read!
This was a pleasant surprise! And a total satire, too!

1935 and lambasting fascism in a very funny and totally SF way. Little 4 ft lizards as smart as us who can breed like CRAZY, who are totally literal, and who (mostly) follow orders like good soldiers.

Of course, quickly outnumbering the human race at 20 billion, things get a bit hairy despite how much all the leaders of industry love their huge workforce. :)

It was funnier than anything, but the SF concept was nothing to sneeze at. I loved how
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hard-rain
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Vaduz in the mountains of Liechtenstein where negotiations are being held to end the hostilities between humans and newts. Although the meetings are held behind closed doors, it has become known that on the 117th day an agreement has been reached concerning the temperature and the salt concentration for the water in the tubs in which the members of the newts-delegation are staying during the trials. In two or three months the agenda will presumably be decided by ...more
Oct 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bitchin
A few years ago a friend of mine sent me an email containing a link to a newspaper article. This article referred to the discovery of, if I remember correctly, a previously unknown type of lobster. Underneath the article my friend had written: ‘How long before this ends up on a plate in some restaurant?’ To which I replied with something like: ‘They’ll probably dissect it or fuck it first.’ It has long been a running joke between us that with anything we – by which I mean human beings – encounte ...more
One of the most enjoyable books I ever read, and definitely only one distopia I really ever liked.

Main concept of this book was repeated many many times after, for example in Starship Troopers. Goverment finds a public enemy, moves it ahead, unleashes society and mass-media on it, eventually organizes a war against it...Heroes, tragedies, war crimes.. for what? Newts!
(well we could find examples of this not only in literature, won't we).

BUT, as oppossed to We or 1984 this book is INCREDIBLY fun
Mar 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Besides, people never regard anything that serves and benefits them as mysterious; only the things which damage or threaten them are mysterious.

This beautiful novel is equally witty and disturbing. It is a mirror to our own horror. I was pushed this to read this as my best friend Joel is going to deliver a paper on it and climate change in Malta later this year. Initially I had assumed I had read 25 years ago, but that wasn't the case. Čapek crafted a novel in pastiche, a collection of diaries,
Nancy Oakes

Anyone who has not yet read this book should run, not walk, to find a copy. I don't particularly care for apocalyptic fiction but this book is absolutely brilliant. I'll also argue that although written in the 1930s, it's still highly relevant today in many ways; it's one that can go on the list of "timeless" books, making it a true classic. It's also the epitome of offbeat, quirky, satirical and sardonic, which puts it squarely in my wheelhouse. And even as humankind makes its journey toward th
"Well, that's just the story... It all started when I was pearl-fishing on Tana Masa", the captain checked himself. "Or somewhere in those parts. Ah yes, it was some other island, but that's still my secret, old chap..."

From WAR WITH THE NEWTS by Karel Čapek, tr. from the Czech by Ewald Osers, 1936 Cz / 1999 En.

#ReadtheWorld21 📍Czechia

Delightful and creative satire - I laughed so much while reading this book. Not only is this story creative, but the form of the writing - parentheses, copious foo
Czarny Pies
Oct 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone wishing to understand how America armed ISIS.
Recommended to Czarny by: Lucie Nowak
Shelves: czech-lit
Save The War with the Newts for a time when you need a laugh. It will keep you in stitches from beginning to end. Once the laughing is over, you can add it to your "read" list on Good Reads on your "Great Classics of European Literature" and "masterpieces of satire" shelves. The newt is a remarkable fable that seems to describe the conflict for colonies that France, England and Germany waged in Africa in the second half of the nineteenth century and the bloody wars they fought on European soil i ...more
Michael Perkins
Jan 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Author Karel Čapek was a contemporary of fellow Bohemians Franz Kafka and Jaroslav Hašek (author of The Good Soldier Švejk). During that time Prague was going through a period of cultural growth in literature, theater, art, and politics.

In 1921, Čapek's play, R.U.R. (“Rossum's Universal Robots") introduced the word and concept of the robot. The play depicted the conflict between these “synthetic people” and the human race. It also portrayed Čapek’s concern that the greatest threat to the human
Apr 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all
Shelves: done-reading
Synopsis: Kapek wrote in the post-WW1 era. In the book, a sea captain finds a bay that harbors giant newts, about the size of a ten year old human, complete with digits and all. The newts are intelligent, and he trains them to capture pearls for him. Eventually, a company forms that sends the Newts to all parts of the world for slave labor. Because of their intelligence (about equal to humans) and the training and supplies given them by man, the Newts spread all over the world (they get up to 70 ...more
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
the thing about this book is how the author effortlessly brought up metaphors and stuff by just some small details, some comic conversations or by just describing things. the language is extremely visual it reminds me of my own writing lol. but this one is better admitedly. it's too comic at times but totally likable.
the way it randomly jumped from a usual narration to a kind of journal language or even a scientific paper dead plain voice is extremely fresh. i mean, i came up with this idea of a
Lorenzo Berardi

It may not be a conventional Czech or Slovakian speciality, but a válka s mloky is an excellent and tasty alternative to the unbearable lightness of being when a metamorphosis into an engineer of the human souls is too loud a solitude.

Preparation time: 1936-1937
Cooking time: approximately 3 days

You will need:
- An aquarium
- An atlas reporting the pre World War II borders
- Around 100 newts of both genders
- Sea salt
- Lemon
- Mayonnaise
- Biscuits in crumbs
- Granny Smith apples
It's good, but I think it is a bit too long. The ending is really good too (and not because it was the end). ...more
Capitalists seeking downward pressure on wages create their antithesis in the form of effective slave labor force that very predictably revolts and supersedes them.

First third is episodic, almost low farce. We know the poor newts are in for it when the guy who ‘discovers’ them refers casually to “nigger superstitions” (12) and “realized that the honor of the white race was now at stake” (14). Discoverer goes to investor in order to obtain backing for his plan to exploit newt labor, which investo
Phil Jensen
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What you need to know about this great book

Part 1:

Our story begins with the fascinating, yet verbosely racist Captain Van Toch. You, as the reader, are meant to laugh at this man's foibles, all-encompassing prejudices, and larger than life character. He's a bit like Sancho Panza in his blind dedication to complete folly.

The story begins with a narrow scope- one trip by one captain, and gradually builds up to the ramifications on international trade, as discussed by a board of directors.

This book
Mar 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant book. This book is one of the high peaks between Swift and Twain and later broad scale social critics in fiction such as Kurt Vonnegut. Published in 1936 it takes it chops up a broad sample of contemporary politics, culture and values. Most of what it has to say about mankind and its collective arrogance holds up today with astounding clarity. This book has not dated at all in any significant way.

The book is about the discovery of an intelligent species of water dwelling beings appa
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Karl Capek is a master. Maybe because he came of age as a writer in a political environment where he had to get his work past censors, he is insanely sly and effective at using a story as a parable. The first trick is writing a story that is engaging in and of itself while providing a secondary layer for those readers who are looking for it. In the case of War with the Newts, a race of amphibians with human like qualities are discovered (in Chapter 1). This provides the basis for a great story. ...more
Aaron Gertler
May 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This may be a "dystopian satire", but I read it neither as dystopia nor as satire. It's certainly a funny book, but it's not especially satirical: Instead, the author takes a very simple premise and drives it off the Cliffs of Insanity (in a good way). This could have been a ten-page short story, but instead it just spirals wonderfully out of control without ever becoming boring.

Also: The Newts are some of the most memorable aliens in the history of science fiction, which is amazing for a book
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Karel Čapek is one of the the most influential Czech writers of the 20th century. He wrote with intelligence and humour on a wide variety of subjects. His works are known for their interesting and precise descriptions of reality, and Čapek is renowned for his excellent work with the Czech language. His play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) first popularized the word "robot". ...more

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“It suddenly occurred to me that every move on the chessboard is old and has been played by somebody at some time. Maybe our own history has been played out by somebody at some time, and we just move our pieces about in the same moves to strike in the same way as people have always done.” 17 likes
“They all had a thousand good economic and political reasons why they couldn’t stop. I’m not a politician or a businessman; how am I supposed to persuade them about these things. What are we supposed to do; quite likely the world will collapse and disappear under water; but at least that will happen for political and economic reasons we can all understand, at least it will happen with the help of science, technology and public opinion, with human ingenuity of all sorts! Not some cosmic catastrophe but just the same old reasons to do with the struggle for power and money and so on. There’s nothing we can do about that.” 14 likes
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