“It was a great thing to be a human being. It was something tremendous. Suddenly I'm conscious of a million sensations buzzing in me like bees in a hive. Gentlemen, it was a great thing.” ~ Karel Čapek, R.U.R
Karel Čapek, the youngest of Antonín and Božena’s three children, was born on January 9, 1890, in Malé Stratoňovice, a mining town located in present-day Czech Republic. He had an older sister Helena (born in 1886) and an older brother named Josef (born in 1887), with whom he often collaborated on his writings. His hard-working, rigorous father was a country doctor. In his spare time he gave lectures, expanded the family library, gathered young people for theatrical performances, initiated the founding of the local museum and bank, and tended to his love of gardening. Meanwhile, Čapek’s mother, a housewife, had an interest in regional folklore, instilling knowledge of folk songs and legends into her children. She read Shakespeare to her children and doted upon her undisputed favorite - Karel. Due to Čapek’s health problems as a child, his mother obsessed over his weak lungs. A curious young boy, he spent time watching local craftsmen and collecting butterflies, beetles, fossils, precious minerals and postage stamps. Čapek's grandmother also lived with the family for a short period, greatly influencing Čapek’s social thinking and language.
Photo Courtesy: Karel Čapek Memorial
Karel Čapek, seated on his mother’s lap, with his brother Josef and sister Helena