March 28 Book Reading: War with the Newts

Please join us for a review and discussion of the book entitled War with the Newts by Karel Čapek.

War with the Newts (Válka s mloky in the original Czech), also translated as War with the Salamanders, is a 1936 satirical science fiction novel by Czech author Karel Čapek. It concerns the discovery in the Pacific of a sea-dwelling race, an intelligent breed of newts, who are initially enslaved and exploited. They acquire human knowledge and rebel, leading to a global war for supremacy.

Only the last four of the book’s 26 chapters deal with the eponymous war. The rest of the book is concerned with the discovery of the Newts, their exploitation and evolution, and growing tensions between humans and the Newts in the lead-up to the war.

The book does not have any single protagonist, but instead looks at the development of the Newts from a broad societal perspective. At various points the narrator’s register seems to slip into that of a journalist, historian or anthropologist. The three most central characters are Captain J. van Toch, the seaman who discovers the Newts; Mr Gussie H. Bondy, the industrialist who leads the development of the Newt industry; and Mr Povondra, Mr Bondy’s doorman. They all reoccur throughout the book, but none can be said to drive the narrative in any significant way. All three are Czech. (Wikipedia, 2015).

If you would like to join us for this book discussion, please note the time and location details.