It was Karel Čapek’s wish that these fables and understories, the majority of which came from his later years in journalism, be assembled into a book. He left behind preparatory materials for this volume, consisting of a collection of newspaper clippings and several manuscripts found in his estate. It was possible to fill in the incomplete material from the original clippings until it encompassed the entirety of the intended contents. The author’s original goal was not only fulfilled by assembling all of the understories, (the name that Čapek himself gave to his feuilletons, but also to include all the fables we have of Čapek’s in their various incarnations from 1925 and 1938.
In addition to the newspaper fables, two collections were included directly from manuscripts. The first of these was found on the back of a letter from the poet Jaroslav Seifert, in which he had requested a contribution from Čapek for the “Majový list 1935,” subsequently published by the Central Workers’ Bookstore and Ant. Svěcený Publishing in Prague. Twelve of the twenty-one fables in it were published in the thirteenth section of the fable cycle with the notation that the manuscript was from 1935. One of them (Stone) was published by the author a privately in a collection of Fables, printed in fifty copies in 1936 for Václav Palivec. The second group of fables (XIV) comes from a handwritten octavo manuscript page included by the author in the preliminary material for this book. It has no date, but in all likelihood an origin of 1936 is indicated by its similarity to other extant manuscripts published in that year.
Though the publishers have largely preserved the original chronological progression of the understories, it had to judge between several different possible arrangements for the fables, keeping in mind the exacting sensibilities of the reader. The most attractive of these systems comes from Karel Čapek himself, who, in the aforementioned private edition of 1936, divided his fables into thematic categories whose headings were literature, politics, history, war, and the future. But this possibility, even in light of his collection, eventually gave way to the decision to leave the fables in their original groupings according to their original printing. In this manner they illustrate their timely and extensive effect best of all, their connection to the atmosphere of the times and its events which gave birth to them, quickly transforming into ironic commentary, cutting remarks, aggressive appeals, and sharp commentary on day-to-day events.
In this reprint several minor corrections have been made which the author added to newspaper clippings after their publication, as well as some stylistic corrections originally made by the author during collection into his 1936 collection. In spite of the variant versions in the original texts, we have captured their definitive form in this book.