“Knowledge is my great and intractable passion; I think I am writing in order to learn to know.” ~Karel Čapek
An excellent pupil, Čapek was the only one of his siblings to attend grammar school in the eastern Bohemian town of Hradec Králové, where he lived with his grandmother. His literary career began early, publishing “Simple Motifs,” “Fairy Tale,” and “Christmas” in the local newspaper when he was only 14. He fell in love at age 15, writing letters to ‘’Anielka,” the daughter of a local music teacher. She inspired him to write poetry, which was first published in a student magazine under a pen name. However, his love went unrequited. He later transferred to the Moravian capital of Brno where his sister lived, after being expelled for taking part in an underground student society. His sister’s husband, František Koželuha, a lawyer, introduced the young Čapek to cultural life, and Čapek started contributing to the Moravian newspapers and magazines. After two years in Brno, his parents moved to Prague where he finished high school, graduating with all A’s. In Prague, he and his brother enjoyed the spirit of modernism. Although shy, they dressed in eccentric cloths, top hats, American-style shoes and walking sticks. His student days at Charles University included semesters at Friedrich Wilhelm University (1901-11) in Berlin and Sorbonne in Paris. While in Paris, he fell in love with Cubism and was inspired by the thinking of French philospher Henri Bergson. His studies culminated with the award of a Master’s degree in Philosophy, having written a dissertation on pragmatism in 1915 at the age of 25.
Photo Courtesy: Karel Čapek Memorial
Karel Čapek, 15 years old