O lyrickém zloději

   The story comes from the collection Povídky z druhé kapsy (Tales from the Second Pocket, 1929). Čapek here intertwines a good-natured, sensitive thief (zloděj) and an ambitious poet into one character. This combination is not accidental: Hermes, the Gods’ messenger in Ancient Greek mythology, was also considered the patron of both thieves and poets. The story has a structure of a skaz, a tale delivered orally by one of the characters to his interlocutors. The text questions the necessity of authentic experience for artistic creation. Čapek’s point seems to stress the lack of cause-and-effect relationship between the two: some authors can be successful writers without actually living through actual events, and yet can influence the public without trusting their own words; others might strive to obtain real experience and to create a maximally authentic setting, but their attempts have no impact on the public. From the sociological point of view, the story focuses on the power of media: for the thief, being published becomes more attractive than being arrested. The story also reflects the journalist’s view of literature where technique, routine, and complete lack of authenticity appear to prevail. In the fashion of Čapek’s style in the late 1920’s, the story breaks the border between a criminal and an attorney, between crime and punishment. Even a criminal offense appears to be perfectly understandable. This leads the reader to recognize that the explanation or motivation offered by the narrator may lack absolute validity. The inner logic of the story suggests the existence of other explanations.
   The story contains elements from the standard language (used in the story-telling), a less formal spoken language (used in the narrator’s interaction with the thief) and a very colloquial language (used in the thief’s speech). The narrator’s vocabulary is marked by figures of speech characteristic of journalistic writing.