June 23, 2020

A darkly humorous Czech satire: a new super-breed tries to conquer the world War with the Newts () is Karel Capek’s darkly humorous. Title: The War with the Newts Author: Karel Capek * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: Edition: 1 Language: English Character. The War with the Newts. Karel Čapek. Translated into English by David Wyllie. This web edition published by [email protected] Last updated Wednesday.

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Your fair use and other rights are in no way affected by the above. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence available at: If you looked up the little island of Tana Masa on the map you would find it just on the Equator, not far south of Sumatra; but if you were on the deck of the Kandong Bandoeng and asked its captain, J.

And then, you might cautiously ask him why it is that he’s just dropped his damned anchor as if he wanted to spend three damned days here; at which he would snort in irritation and grumble something about not being so damned stupid as to sail all the way to Kandon Bandoeng just to get this damned copra or palm oil, and there’s nothing else here, wad I’ve got my damned orders, and you will please be so kind as to mind your own damned business.

And he would carry on cursing as widely and as fully as you might expect from a sea captain who was no longer young but still lively for his age. But if, instead of asking teh sorts of impertinent questions, you left Captain J. Surely it’s obvious the man needs a rest. Just leave him alone, he can sort out his foul mood by himself. Have a look around you; can you see any pearls?

They say the people are crazy round here for pearls and that sort of thing. That’s because you people always want to start a war or something.

War with the Newts by Karel Čapek

All you’re worried about is money. And then you call it a crisis. But it’s too hot and languid to talk about that sort of thing here, anchored off Tana Masa; so the captain merely waved his hand and grumbled: In Ceylon they’ve got enough pearls piled up to last them for five years, on Formosa they’ve put a ban on gathering them–and so they say to me, Captain van Toch, go and see if you can find somewhere new to gather pearls.

Go on down to those damned little islands, you might find whole bays full of oysters down there God, what a bunch of fools they are!

Next they’ll be wanting me to look up the Bataks snouts to see if they don’t have them full of pearls.

War with the Newts

I know there’s a new brothel in Padang, but new pearl fisheries? I know these islands like my trousers, all the way from Ceylon down to that damned Clipperton Island, and if anyone thinks there’s anything new still left to find there that they can make any money out of, well good luck to them.

Thirty years I’ve been sailing these waters, and now these fools think I’m going to discover something new!

Please try and understand this. In Europe there might still be something left to discover; but here–people only come here to sniff out something they could eat, or rather not even to eat, to find something to buy and sell.


If in all these damned tropics there was still something they could double the price of there’d be three commercial agents standing there waving their snotty handkerchiefs at the ships of seven countries to stop for it. That’s how it is. I know about these things better than the colonial office of Her Majesty the Queen, if you’ll forgive me. They’re pearl fishers from Ceylon, Sinhalese, God help us, just as the Lord made them; but what He made them for, I don’t know.

I have them on board with me, and when we find any stretch of coast that doesn’t have a sign up saying Agency or Bata or Customs Office down they go in the water to look for oysters. That small bugger, he can dive down eighty meters deep; in the Princes Islands he went down to ninety meters to get the handle from a film projector. Not a sniff of them! Worthless rabble, these Sinhalese. And that’s the sort of worthless work I do. Pretend to be buying palm oil and all the time looking for new pearl fisheries.

Next they’ll be wanting me to find a new virgin continent for them. This isn’t a job for an honest captain in the merchant navy. And on he would go; the sea is wide and the ocean of time has no limits; spit in the sea, my friend, and it will not return, berate your destiny and you will never change it; and so on through many preparations and circumstances until we finally arrive at the point when J.

karek These filthy Bataks,” he would inform him with boundless disgust, “will even eat the jellyfish; there are more of them in the water than on the land, the women here smell of fish, you cannot imagine what newte is like–what was I saying? Ah, yes, you were nedts about women. The Bataks would not like to see anyone going down there. The Bataks call them tapa. They say that that’s where they have their city, these demons. I once saw one of them I was coming back in a boat from Cape Haarlem In this place no Batak would ever go into the water.

That was a tapa. How tbe would I ever had rowed into that place. The Bataks don’t like it when anyone That must have been some kind of fish you saw or something. I am not some Batak Captain, I went to school in Badyoeng I might even still know my ten commandments and other scientifically proven facts; and an educated man will know the difference between a demon and an animal.

Ask the Bataks, Captain. A demon can’t live in water anyway.

What would he be doing in the water? You shouldn’t listen to all the nonsense talked by the natives, lad.

The War with the Newts

Somebody gave the place the name Devil Bay and ever since then the Bataks have been afraid of it. That’s all there is to it,” the captain declared, and threw his chubby hand down on the table.

We’ll see about that,” he said as he stood up with all the mass of his honest two hundred pounds. But just remember this; the Dutch colonies don’t have any demons in them; even if there are in the French. There, there might well thw. And now thd the mayor of this damned Kampong over to speak to me. It did not take long to find the aforementioned dignitary; he was squatting down beside the half-casts shop chewing sugar cane.

He was an elderly man, naked, but a lot thinner than mayors usually are in Europe. Some way behind him, keeping the appropriate distance, the entire village was also squatting, complete with women and children. They were clearly expecting to be filmed.


The Lit Pub • War With the Newts

Understand what I mean? Out on a fishing trip. There followed about fifteen minutes of animated discussion with the whole village taking part, especially the old women. Finally the half-cast turned to the captain. I’ll knock all their teeth out I’ll tear their ears off I’ll hang the lot of them The half-cast dutifully translated what the captain had said, at which capeek was more lively discussion.

The half-cast finally turned to the captain. There seem to be laws about that. The mayor says he can’t allow that sort of capke. The half-cast translated what he had said, as karsl as his vocabulary was able; and then he once again translated the Bataks long, but objective, verdict back to the captain. They suggest,” here he hesitated, “two hundred rupees, Captain; but that seems rather a lot.

First he offered to murder all the Bataks in the world, then the offer went down to giving them all three hundred good kickings, and finally he agreed to content himself with stuffing the mayor and calek him on display in the colonial museum in Amsterdam; for their part, the Bataks went down from two hundred rupees to an iron pump with a wheel, and finally insisted on no more than that the captain give the mayor his petrol cigarette lighter as a token.

That afternoon a boat set out from the Dutch ship, Kandon Bandoeng, with the following crew: The boat headed straight for Devil Bay. At three o’clock, when the tide was at its highest, the captain stood on the shore, the boat was out watching for sharks about a hundred meters offshore, and both the Sinhalese divers were waiting, knife in hand, for the signal to jump into the water. The Sinhalese jumped into the water, waded out a few paces and then dived.

The captain looked at his watch. After four minutes and twenty seconds a brown head wag to his left, about sixty meters away; with a strange, desperate shudder which seemed at the same time as if paralysed, the Sinhalese clawed at the rocks, in one hand he had the knife, in the other some pearl bearing oysters.

The Sinhalese was still slithering up the rock, unable to speak with the horror of it. Thousands and thousands of demons! Inside, there was a small, perfect pearl. They were watching me as I cut them off The captain opened the oysters; two of them were empty and in the third there was a pearl the kqrel of a pea, as round as a drop of mercury.

Captain van Toch looked at the pearl and then at the Sinhalese collapsed on the ground. And what did they look like, these The captain cspek him a silent signal hte the gaunt Sinhalese jumped into the water. After three minutes and fifty seconds he re-emerged, clawing at the slippery rocks. At the last karle he caught hold of the Sinhalese hand and pulled him breathless from the water.

Then he lay him on the rock and wiped the sweat off his brow. The Sinhalese lay without moving; his shin had been scraped and the bone underneath was exposed, clearly he had injured it on some rock, but he was otherwise unhurt.