War with the Newts by Karel Čapek
What is it about:
War with the Newts (1936) is Karel Čapek's darkly humorous allegory of early twentieth-century Czech politics. Captain van Toch discovers a colony of newts in Sumatra which can not only be taught to trade and use tools, but also to speak. As the rest of the world learns of the creatures and their wonderful capabilities, it is clear that this new species is ripe for exploitation – they can be traded in their thousands, will do the work no human wants to do, and can fight – but the humans have given no thought to the terrible consequences of their actions.
What did I think of it:
While in Prague I decided I should try a book by a Czech author. I picked up War with the Newts as the concept of intelligent newts sounded intriguing.
It was a very interesting and at times funny read.
It's build up in three parts and of these part one is the most funny and the most like an actual story. Part two is rather dry and written like a collections of articles, although there's lots of humor in this part as well. Part three is the most grim and written like the recounting of historical happenings.
What surprised me is how current this story still is today as it's written in 1936. It paints a very accurate, cynical picture of human nature, while using humor to do so. The writing is a bit old fashioned at times, but not so much that it annoyed me and apart from some articles in part two that were a bit too dry for me I really enjoyed this book.
The one negative thing I can say is that I think the book is one chapter too long. I could have done without the last chapter, which for me took away from the powerful message this book is carrying out.
Why should you read it:
It's a disturbing, but humoress look into human nature.