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The Absolute at Large

– tekijä: Karel Čapek

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioKeskustelut / Maininnat
1989107,479 (3.82)1 / 18
In this satirical classic, a brilliant scientist invents the Karburator, a reactor that can create abundant and practically free energy. However, the Karburator's superefficient energy production also yields a powerful by-product. The machine works by completely annihilating matter and in so doing releases the Absolute, the spiritual essence held within all matter, into the world. Infected by the heady, pure Absolute, the world's population becomes consumed with religious and national fervor, the effects of which ultimately cause a devastating global war. Set in the mid-twentieth century, The Absolute at Large questions the ethics and rampant spread of power, mass production, and atomic weapons that Karel Capek saw in the technological and political revolutions occurring around him. Stephen Baxter provides an introduction for this Bison Books edition.… (lisätietoja)
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  2. 00
    The Place of the Lion (tekijä: Charles Williams) (bertilak)
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englanti (7)  saksa (1)  tanska (1)  Kaikki kielet (9)
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 9) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
Indeholder kapitlerne "1. En lille Annonce", "2. Karburatoren", "3. Pantheisme", "4. Den guddommelige Kælder", "5. Biskoppen", "6. Someta", "7. Videre", "8. Paa muddermaskinen", "9. Ceremonien", "10. Den hellige Helene", "11. Det første Chok", "12. Videnskabsmanden", "13. Forfatterens Undskyldninger", "14. Landet af Overflod", "15. Katastrofen", "16. I Bjergene", "17. Hammeren og Stjernen", "18. En Nat paa Redaktionen", "19. Kanoniseringen", "20. St. Kilda", "21. Telegrammet", "22. Den gamle Patriot", "23. Forvirringen i Augsburg", "24. Den alpinske Napoleon", "25. Krigen, man har kaldt den største af alle", "26. Slaget var Hradets-Kralové", "27. Paa en Koralø i Stillehavet", "28. I Sept Granges", "29. Det sidste Slag", "30. Det sidste Ord".

??? ( )
  bnielsen | Jun 28, 2020 |
I have this copy floating around somewhere, and how I have not heard of this book before I do not know, but it is eerily surreal and prescient. His working of mythos is cognate with that of Cordwainer Smith, arguably. And I would LOVE to see this animated...!
  kencf0618 | Jul 8, 2019 |
FINAL REVIEW

“Everyone has the best of feelings towards mankind in general, but not towards the individual man. We'll kill men, but we want to save mankind. And that isn't right, your Reverence. The world will be an evil place as long as people don't believe in other people.”
― Karel Čapek, The Absolute at Large

As the Robots take over the world in Karel Čapek’s R.U.R., so the Absolute, that is, the God of Spinoza, the God imminent in all of nature, escapes and explodes from entrapment in gross material form by means of a newfangled invention, the Karburator, to take over the minds of all the humans on the face of the earth.

Where will this God-infused human experience lead? As a way of answering this question, below are a number of the novel’s philosophical moments. And please keep in mind Karel Čapek’s stance of acceptance and pluralism, a recognition that each person has their own version of the truth, however slight that truth might be, and no one person possesses, however air-tight their logic might appear, access to the whole truth.

The owner of a kid’s merry-go-round, a man by the name of Jan Binder, is overtaken by the effects of the Kaburator and founds his own mystical sect. I have a strong sense the author was thinking of another Jan, Czech mystic Jan Hus who rebelled against the Church one hundred years prior to Martin Luther and was subsequently burned at the stake for heresy. There’s also a Mr. Rejeck, whose beliefs and revelations echo 14th century Flemish mystic Jan van Ruusbroec. All in all, Karel Čapek doesn’t overlook many opportunities to portray the dire consequences of people and society lacking a grounding in mutual respect and tolerance.

All varieties of religious phenomenon bursts out: illumination, miracles, levitations, and above all, religious faith. As history has proven, especially during those times of strong religious belief such as the Protestant Reformation in Europe during the 16th century, bloodshed is all too common. But, since this novel takes place in the 20th century, religious belief is linked in subtle and not so subtle ways to Fascism and Communism. At one point, one of the main characters refers to “mystical Communism.”

In one chapter, a scholar links the Karburator’s influence to various religious phenomenon throughout history: animism, shamanism, the 16th century Anabaptists, superstition, witchcraft, occultism, mysticism and necromancy, the medieval Flagellants, the Crusaders and Millenarians. Thus, devastating violence is inevitable since it is one thing to have your own religious experience but when you try to force your beliefs on others – watch out! Put another way, if everybody is certain they have exclusive access to the absolute truth . . . well, is it any wonder this Karel Čapek features world-wide war. This short sci fi novel is a lively read and one I would highly recommend.
( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
The premise of Čapek’s first novel is brilliant and creative. In pulling from both Einstein’s theory of mass-energy equivalence as well as pantheism (in this context, the idea that God is present in all that things), he envisioned a machine that would not only harness atomic energy, but that in the process it would also free trapped God particles, which he dubbed the ‘Absolute’. At first the machine seems like a blessing to Mankind, as the Absolute has the power to produce food and products on its own, such that the world might live in plenty. It also seems to have an enlightening effect on people who are near it, and they become maniacally selfless and charitable. However, the Absolute has another effect: because it simply amplifies a particular group’s religious feelings, they fall prey to mankind’s unfortunate dual response to religious fervor – on the one hand, extraordinary altruism, but on the other, violence towards those with different beliefs. And so Čapek skillfully satirizes religion, nationalism, and warfare in this book.

The first half of the book is absolutely (no pun intended :) brilliant, with elements of science, religion, humor, and clever descriptions of the unintended consequences. The second half (after ‘The Chronicler’s Apology’) is good, but degenerates a bit into the more general global mayhem that follows, leading to the ‘Greatest War’. Although WWII was fought for different reasons, Čapek seems quite prescient, and concludes the novel with the wise observations that the world will always be an evil place if man clings to his own beliefs, despises others for theirs if they differ, and “people don’t believe in other people.” Great stuff, and I might have rated it a half tick higher.

Quotes:
On extremes, and Man’s nature:
“It is a foible of our human nature that when we have an extremely unpleasant experience, it gives us a peculiar satisfaction if it is ‘the biggest’ of its disagreeable kind that has happened since the world began. During a heat wave, for instance, we are very pleased if the papers announce that it is ‘the highest temperature reached since the year 1881,’ and we feel a little resentment towards the year 1881 for having gone us one better. Or if our ears are frozen till all the skin peels off, it fills us with a certain happiness to learn that ‘it was the hardest frost recorded since 1786.’ It is just the same with wars. The war in progress is either the most righteous or the bloodiest, or the most successful, or the longest, since such and such a time; any superlative whatever always affords us the proud satisfaction of having been through something extraordinary and record-breaking.”

On God, and the vastness of the Universe, I thought it was an interesting perspective:
“If someone made or created all this, then we must admit that it is a terrible waste. If anyone wanted to show his power as a Creator, there was no need to create such an insane quantity of things. Excess is chaos, and chaos is something like insanity or drunkenness. Yes, the human intellect is staggered by the over-profusion of this creative achievement. There is simply too much of it. It’s boundlessness gone mad. Of course, He who is Infinite from His very birth is accustomed to huge proportions in everything, and has no proper standard (for every standard implies finiteness) or, rather, has no standard whatsoever.
I beg you not to regard this as blasphemy; I am only endeavouring to set forth the disproportion between human ideas and this cosmic superabundance. This wanton, purposeless, well-nigh feverish excess of everything that exists appears to the sober human eye more like creativeness run wild than conscientious and methodical creation.”

On nature:
“’How pure the air is here!’ thought Marek on his veranda. ‘Here, Heaven be praised, the Absolute is still latent, it still lies under a spell, hidden in everything, in these mountains and forests, in the sweet grass and the blue sky. Here it does not rush about all over the place, waking terror or working magic; it simply dwells in all matter, a God deeply and quietly present, not even breathing, only in silence watching over all…’ Marek clasped his hands in a mute prayer of thankfulness. ‘Dear God, how pure the air is here!’”

On religion:
“’He is infinite. That’s just where the trouble lies. You see, everyone measures off a certain amount of Him and then thinks it is the entire God. Each one appropriates a little fringe or fragment of Him and then thinks he possesses the whole of Him. See?’
‘Aha,’ said the Captain. ‘And then gets angry with everyone else who has a different bit of Him.’
‘Exactly. In order to convince himself that God is wholly his, he has to go and kill all the others. Just for that very reason, because it means so much to him to have the whole of God and the whole of the truth. That’s why he can’t bear anyone else to have any other God or any other truth. If he once allowed that, he would have to admit that he himself has only a few wretched metres or gallons or sackloads of divine truth.”

On tolerance, and kindness:
“’You know, the greater the things are in which a man believes, the more fiercely he despises those who do not believe in them. And yet the greatest of all beliefs would be belief in one’s fellow-men.’
‘Everyone has the best of feelings towards mankind in general, but not towards the individual man. We’ll kill him, but we want to save mankind. And that isn’t right, your Reverence. The world will be an evil place as long as people don’t believe in other people.’

‘Every religion and every truth has something good in it, if it’s only the fact that it suits somebody else.” ( )
1 ääni gbill | Sep 8, 2017 |
"We aren't used to reckoning with God as a reality. We don't know what His presence may bring about..."
By sally tarbox on 9 August 2017
Format: Paperback
Written in the 1920s, this novel is set in the immediate future - the 1940s - where inventor Marek has just invented the Karburator. A sort of atomic engine, this features 'perfect combustion', where every scrap of matter is used: "one kilogramme of coal, if it underwent complete combustion, would run a good-sized factory for several hundred hours."
But despite the vast potential, Marek sells out to industrialist Bondy - he has become aware there is a massive price to pay...
And here what starts out as a simple sci-fi story becomes a very clever look at war, politics and religion. Because as matter is combusted, it frees something else:
"Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that God is contained in all forms of physical matter, that He is, as it were, imprisoned in it. And when you smash this matter up completely, He flies out of it as though from a box ... immediately the whole cellar is filled with the Absolute. It's simply appalling how quickly it spreads."

As religious mania takes over the world, and as the Absolute's powers have factories working constantly, creating more stuff than anyone can cope with, the economy is wrecked. And as different factions each promote their own take on the Divinity, it seems War is at hand...

This is a really clever and thought-provoking work. Capek's view of a future War is certainly not far from what actually transpired; and his observations are very true:
"Everyone believes in his own superior God, but he doesn't believe in another man or credit him with believing in something good. People should first of all believe in other people and the rest would soon follow."
"The greater the things are in which a man believes, the more fiercely he despises those who do not elieve in them. And yet the greatest of all beliefs would be belief in one's fellow-men."

A fairly quick read (168p) but both amusing in places and with a deeper message... ( )
  starbox | Aug 9, 2017 |
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 9) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
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On New Year's Day, 1943, GH Bondy, head of the great Metallo-Electric Company, was sitting as usual reading his paper.
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia

-

In this satirical classic, a brilliant scientist invents the Karburator, a reactor that can create abundant and practically free energy. However, the Karburator's superefficient energy production also yields a powerful by-product. The machine works by completely annihilating matter and in so doing releases the Absolute, the spiritual essence held within all matter, into the world. Infected by the heady, pure Absolute, the world's population becomes consumed with religious and national fervor, the effects of which ultimately cause a devastating global war. Set in the mid-twentieth century, The Absolute at Large questions the ethics and rampant spread of power, mass production, and atomic weapons that Karel Capek saw in the technological and political revolutions occurring around him. Stephen Baxter provides an introduction for this Bison Books edition.

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