Friday, May 21, 2010


Karel Čapek's The Gardener's Year is an absolute gem of a little book. First published in 1929, it consists of the Czech author's amusing and amused observations about gardening and gardeners. Of course gardening also serves as a very workable metaphor for various aspects of the human condition. Consider Čapek's short chapter "Preparations," tucked between November and December, on what transpires beneath the soil as the plants appear to go dormant for the winter:
Sometimes we seem to smell of decay, encumbered by the faded remains of the past; but if only we could see how many fat and white shoots are pushing forward in the old tilled soil, which is called the present day; how many seeds germinate in secret; how many old plants draw themselves together and concentrate into a living bud, which one day will burst into flowering life--if only we could see that secret swarming of the future within us, we should say that our melancholy and distrust is silly and absurd, and that the best thing of all is to be a living man--that is, a man who grows.
The translation, by M. and R. Weatherall, is similarly lovely throughout.

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