THREE NOVELS

Whatever we look at is that thing and, at the same time, something of us, something ours, something personal; our knowledge of the world and of men is like a confession.  We see things differently according to who and what we are; things are good and evil, beautiful and dreadful – it depends upon the eyes with which we look at them.  How terribly big and complex, how spacious is reality when there is room enough for so many different interpretations!  But it is no longer a chaos, it is an abundance, a distinct plurality; it is no longer an uncertainty, but a polyphony.  What threatened us like a blind conflict tells us that we are listening not only to different and inconsistent testimonies, but also to different people.

However, if what we apprehend is always encompassed by our I, how can we apprehend this plurality, how can we approach it?  Well, we must inquire into the I that we insert into our interpretation of reality.  A man is a host of real and possible persons – and at first glance it looks like a worse confusion, like the disintegration of a man who has torn himself to bits and thrown his I to the winds.  Only at this point did it become clear to the author: it’s all in order; the reason we can apprehend and understand plurality is that we ourselves are such a plurality!  Similia similibus: we apprehend the world through what we are ourselves, and in apprehending the world we discover ourselves.  Thank God, now we are home again; we are of the same stuff as that plurality of the world; we are at home in that spaciousness and infinity, and we can respond to those numerous voices.  It is no longer only I, but we people; we can come to an understanding through the many tongues that are in us.  We can respect a man because he is different from us and understand him because we are his equals.  Fraternity and diversity!  Even that most ordinary life is still infinite, immense is the value of every soul.

Karel Čapek, Afterword of Three Novels (translated from the Czech by M. and R. Weatherall)

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