War with the Newts

by Karel Čapek

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War with the Newts

'I gave them my word that if they would bring me the pearl shells I would give them harpoons and knives in exchange, so that they could defend themselves, see? That's an honest deal, sir.' War with the Newts (1936) is Karel Capek's darkly humorous allegory of early twentieth-century Czech politics. Captain van Toch discovers a colony of newts in Sumatra which can not only be taught to trade and use tools, but also to speak. As the rest of the world learns of the creatures and their wonderful capabilities, it is clear that this new species is ripe for exploitation - they can be traded in their thousands, will do the work no human wants to do, and can fight - but the humans have given no thought to the terrible consequences of their actions. 'A great writer of the past who speaks to the present in a voice brilliant, clear, honourable, blackly funny and prophetic' Kurt Vonnegut

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