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by Karel Capek

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-945774-25-7

 Newly translated stories by noted Czech author apek (1890- 1938) use the mystery form to explore such issues as fate, mortality, and the nature of justice. Originally published in 1932, the book contains in its first half, ``Tales from One Pocket,'' traditional mysteries whose solutions often result from and comment on the quirks of human nature. In ``The Mystery of Handwriting,'' a man asks an expert to analyze the script of his wife of 20 years--who is characterized on that basis as a dishonest, unpleasant, unsavory person. The husband later lambastes his spouse without explanation, but when he tells this story expecting sympathy, his listener asks why the wife's unforgivable flaws weren't apparent earlier. ``The Last Judgement'' shows God serving as a witness before a human jury and judge trying to determine where a dead man will spend eternity. The omniscient deity knows all the deceased's sins, and the accused is sent to Hell. The protagonist of ``The Poet'' gleans the clues necessary to track down a criminal by analyzing a verse composed at the crime scene. apek waxes more metaphysical and serious in ``Tales from the Other Pocket,'' the collection's second half. The narrator of ``The Man Who Could Not Sleep'' says of his nightly torment by painful memories, ``Sleep...forgives both us and those who trespass against us.'' The protagonist of the volume's final story, ``The Last Things of Man,'' looks at himself in the mirror while experiencing great pain and sees his suffering as quintessentially human. Balancing satire with a provocative exploration of human hypocrisy and conscience, these tales exude a playful energy similar to that which empowered the Dada and Surrealist literary movements. apek offers both humor and insight to the reader who looks at the world with a jaundiced eye.