Malí národové
Vocabulary notes:
národ (nation) m. is usually inanimate. The expected Npl. is therefore národy. The animate ending -ové and corresponding adjective ending -í in this title can be interpreted as a marked intentional attempt to present nations as distinct and unique peoples.

This essay touches upon the issue of otherness and awareness of other perspectives. Čapek tries to outline a myth of Europe and ultimately a myth of the Czech nation. For this purpose he uses a fairy tale language instead of a style of philosophical or sociological debates.

The notion of different perspectives and points of view was brought into the Czech cultural context in the 1920’s when there were discussions about the United States and its technological advances and growing interest in the third world cultures. (Incidentally, Čapek’s brother Josef wrote extensively about primitive art.)

Čapek’s remark on the “rozervaný spisovatel” (pessimistic writer) in this text is aimed at the philosopher-critic Herbert Gordon Schauer who questioned the validity of Czech national existence in the1880’s. His view can be summed up in one sentence: was the process of Czech national emancipation worth it, as it ended up in linguistic and cultural isolation of the Czech nation? This is one of Čapek’s favorite topics in his essays because it allows examination from more than one angle. (Does this approach remind us of any school in art that was prevalent in Čapek’s time?)

Like some of the other texts in this anthology, this text demonstrates Čapek’s fascination with relativity and his ability to make contradicting views confront one another. See which of the views holds better. How are Čapek’s concluding statements presented? -- Does this style of presentation suggest that the author fully identifies with these statements?

The issue of the survival of a small nation might have been read differently at different junctures of history. How can we read it from the twentieth-century point of view?