Heís got us Pegged: Karel Capekís Humorous Tome on the Gardener
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on April 30, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)
O Lord, grant that in some way it may rain every day, say from about midnight until three o'clock in the morning, but you see, it must be gentle and warm so that it can soak in; grant that at the same time it would not rain on campion, alyssum, helianthemum, lavender, and the others which you in your infinite wisdom know are drought-loving plants--I can write their names on a bit of paper if you like--and grant that the sun may shine the whole day long, but not everywhere...and not too much; that there may be plenty of dew and little wind, enough worms, no plant-lice and snails, no mildew, and that once a week, thin liquid manure and guano may fall from Heaven. Amen. -Karel Čapek, The Gardener's Year, 1929
arel Čapek (CHOPek; 1890-1938) is one of the greatest writers the Czech Republic has ever produced. A novelist, playwright, journalist, translator, and artist, he gained worldwide renown as author of the drama "RUR Rossum's Universal Robots." In this science fiction play, the word "robot" is introduced and subsequently becomes part of the vocabulary of almost all languages in the world. It is said to have been coined by his brother, Josef.
Born in Malé Svatoňovice, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary (now Czech Republic), Čapek is considered one of the founders of classical, European science fiction. Although many of the themes in his diverse writings are quite serious--he explores ethical aspects and other issues related to mass production, atomic weapons, Nazism, and development of mechanical intelligent beings--Čapek had an oft-overlooked humorous side. And he was a passionate gardener!
In a small, 120-page tome called The Gardener's Year (original Czech version: Prague, 1929; English version: London, 1931, Modern Library paperback: New York, 2002), Čapek partners his humorous side with his passion for gardening. The result is a charming treatise, full of wit and hilarity, that plays on the the psychology of gardening and gardeners. He pokes fun not only at other gardeners but, being one, at himself as well. Here is a sampling of his tongue-in-cheek humor:
On How to Recognize a Real Gardener
On Garden Hoses
On Unexpected Cold Spells
On Starting Seedlings
On a Gardener's Eyes Being Bigger than his Garden Bed
On Accidental Mutilation
On the Joy of Much-Anticipated Rain
On Storm Damage
On the Finality of Fall
On the Gardener in Winter
"Then the hibernating gardener ceases entirely to be interested in what he has got in his garden, being fully occupied with what he has not, which of course is far more; he throws himself eagerly upon catalogues, and ticks off what he must order, which, by Jove, must no longer be lacking in his garden. In the first rush he marks off 490 perennials which he must order at all costs; after counting them he is a bit subdued, and with a bleeding heart he begins to cross off those which he will give up for this year. The painful elimination must be gone through five times at least, until only about 120 'most beautiful, gratifying, indispensable' perennials remain, which--on the wings of an anticipated joy--he immediately orders. 'Send them at the beginning of March!'--Lord, if only it were March already!"
True to His Political Beliefs Until the End
This somewhat nebulous photo is actually hog confinement manure being sprayed into the air and falling from the sky onto a field. Had he lived long enough, Čapek would have seen one of his wishes come true! (...though he probably would have been aghast at the practice of mass production hog confinement) See his prayer above.
*The first article in this series is entitled "Buck Roses"
© Larry Rettig 2009
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