Czech writer of the early 20th century, Karel Čapek was best known for his science fiction, including his novel War with the Newts and the play R.U.R where he introduced and made popular the frequently used international word “robot”. The word comes from the expression “robota”, meaning literally “serf labor” or “hard work” in Czech. Through social circles, Čapek developed close relationship with many of the political leaders of Czechoslovakia during the nineteen-twenties and thirties. These included Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the first President of Czechoslovakia, and his son Jan, who would later become foreign secretary and was killed by Communists in a contrived suicide in 1948. Čapek was a regular guest of the “Friday Men”, a discussion club of the Czech intellectual elite of the first Republic (1918-1939).
Suggested reading: Talks with T.G. Masaryk; The Makropulos Affair (Věc Makropulos), the celebrated opera by Leoš Janáček is based on this play; The Absolute at Large, etc.
Čapek’s travel books: Letters from Italy; Letters from England; Letters from Spain; Letters from Holland; Travels in the North