As ever, thanks to Blogs of a Bookaholic for creating this challenge.
Without a doubt, it is War With the Newts by Karel Čapek. An author who deserves at least as much attention as Paul Celan, although now I come to think of it, Celan doesn’t get as much attention as he deserves either… Anyway!
In the first week of my degree, when graphemes such as: č, ę and ţ had absolutely no meaning or sound equivalent in my mind, I stumbled across a book by a Czech author called ‘Karel Čapek’. I didn’t know how to pronounce his name and this automatically made his work interesting enough to start reading then and there.
An hour later midnight struck and so did the bell to tell all the nerds to clear out so that the staff could get some sleep. I did not want to leave. I had fallen in love with his writing style and wanted to stay ‘at his side’, beside the shelf with all his work. I read it, read up on Čapek (he’s the guy who introduced the word ‘robot’ to English-speakers back in the ‘20s!) and proceeded to wander around with fragments of the story in my mind for the next few years.
In a nut-shell: the book’s about the discovery of a breed of newts that are capable of speech and of being ‘civilised’. This discovery leads to them being enslaved by Man, exploited and treated in much the same way as the colonised peoples of previous centuries. Slowly the newts learn all they can about our society and eventually rebel against their oppressors.
It’s a book that deserves to be read and discussed by people of different disciplines, to be wept over and laughed with. It’s a book that, to my mind, challenges not only contemporary schools of thought such as colonialism, but also current questions, such as the sort of greedy consumerism that’s led to maquiladores and other factories that have a tendency to chew their workers up and spit them out when they can no longer operate at full speed. It satirises the racial segregation that led to lynch mobs; the misuse of ‘scientific evidence’ to ‘prove’ that some races are naturally superior to others; the arguments for Lebensraum.
Basically, it’s beautifully crafted Sci-Fi that anyone who’s enjoyed Orwell or Wyndham should try.
Please read it if you get a chance to. Please? I will read pretty much anything you suggest if you read this, even Sean O’Kane (the author, that is).
Although if you recommend Sean O’Kane, I will judge you a little bit. He is like a modern version of de Sade.