Tales from Two Pockets

Karel Capek, Author, Norma Comrada, Translator
Karel Capek, Author, Norma Comrada, Translator Catbird Press $14.95 (365p) ISBN 978-0-945774-25-9
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
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This newly translated collection of all Capek's mystery stories originally published in Czechslovakia in the late '20s is one of the great works of the mystery genre. In 48 gripping short works, Capek ( War with the Newts ) proves that he had not only mastered the plot and mood necessary for good suspense but that he was able to take his mysteries to philosophical heights few in the genre aspire to. His stories deconstruct the very suppositions that make crime fiction plausible by calling into question the reliance of the typical literary detective on the powers of deduction and the moral correctness of human judgment. Thus the title character of ``The Adventures of a Breach-of-Promise Con Man'' turns out to be more honorable than the detective pursuing him; the man asked to judge a murderess in ``The Juror'' discovers that his entire society is on trial; and in the book's most surreal story, ``The Last Judgment,'' God himself leaves the eternal fate of a multiple murderer in the hands of a human court, claiming that ``Because I know everything, I can't possibly judge.'' In their dissection of truth and our capacity for judgment, the dilemmas in Capek's work are not always resolved, or are solved incidentally. These haunting, parable-like works reconfirm Capek's standing as one of Czechoslovakia's most intellectually piercing literary voices. Illustrations not seen by PW . (July)
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