Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Category: 800s

834: If the War Goes On by Hermann Hesse

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834.912: Hesse, Hermann. If the War Goes On…: Reflections on War and Politics. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973. 186 pp.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 830: Literatures of Germanic languages
  • 834: German essays
  • 834.9: 1900 to present
  • 834.91: 1900 to 1990
  • 834.912: 1900 to 1945

The two World Wars of the 20th century were unfathomably polarizing. There were those who believed war was necessary to defeat either national or global enemies, and those who believed acts of aggression and war were counter to our enlightened place in history. Hermann Hesse, in If the War Goes On, is vehemently against war. In this collection of 27 essays, Hesse explores his own feelings about war and also the experiences of living through both great calamities.

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802: Literature Lover’s Book of Lists by Judie L. H. Strouf

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802: Strouf, Judie L.H. Literature Lover’s Book of Lists: Serious Trivia for the Bibliophile. Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall Press, 1998. 391 pp. ISBN 0-7352-0121-8.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 802: Miscellany

Judie Strouf’s Literature Lover’s Book of Lists is a simple exercise that gather a lot of information. It bills itself as a “compendium of useful, whimsical, and necessary information for people…who love to read.” The 198 compiled lists try to order, categorize, and codify the entirety of literature for those crave such information. It has every Pulitzer Prize winner and their works, poem types and literary devices with examples, landmark books and speeches from every major Western period, lists of literary genres, and so on and so on.

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894: Snow by Orhan Pamuk

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894.3533: Pamuk, Orhan. Snow. Translated by Maureen Freely. New York: Vintage International, 2005. 426 pp. ISBN 0-375-70686-0.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 890: Other literatures
  • 894: Literatures of Altaic, Uralic, Hyperborean, Dravidian languages; literatures of miscellaneous languages of south Asia
  • 894.3: Turkic literatures
  • 894.35: Turkish literature
  • 894.353: Turkish fiction
  • 894.3533: Authors born between 1850 and 1999

In Orhan Pamuk’s Snow, a man comes home. As always, the context is excruciatingly important. Ka, a Turkish poet, who has lived for a while in Germany, returns to his home country to investigate a series of young suicides in the town of Kars. It’s a small town, and religious tensions run high. Ka doesn’t write much poetry any more, but the folks in Kars, when not dodging political subterfuge or looking for angles, give him more credit than he deserves for his writing. In the town of Kars lives Ipek, a woman recently separated from her political candidate husband, a woman who reminds Ka of better days, a woman who he thinks can save him and his poetry. In the dead of winter, Ka soon learns, however, just how heavy and silent the snow can be.

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878: Plutarch’s Lives by Plutarch

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878: Plutarch. Plutarch’s Lives. Translated by John Dryden and revised by Arthur Hugh Clough. New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1969. 389 pp.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 870: Literature of Italic and Latin languages
  • 878: Latin miscellaneous writings

Note: This edition of Plutarch’s Lives, published as part of the Harvard Classics, is not the complete set written by Plutarch. The original collection consisted of 23 pairs of biographies, each containing a Greek and Roman figure, and four unpaired biographies. My version covers Themistocles, Pericles, Aristides, Alcibiades, Coriolanus, Demosthenes, Cicero, Julius Caesar, and Antony. Alcibiades and Coriolanus are paired together as well as Demosthenes and Cicero.

If you want a pretty decent picture of both the everyday lives of Greeks and Roman as well as an overview of ancient, you’d be hard pressed to do better than Plutarch. Writing in the late 1st century, Plutarch is about as close to a contemporary source as one could want. In the Harvard Classics collection of Plutarch’s Lives, we get a cross section of historical figures:

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855: Italy’s Foreign and Colonial Policy

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855: Italy’s Foreign and Colonial Policy: A Selection from the Speeches Delivered in the Italian Parliament by the Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Tommaso Tittoni During His Six Years In Office (1903-1909). Translated by Baron Bernardo Quaranta di San Severino. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1914. 323 p.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 850: Literatures of Italian, Sardinian, Dalmatian, Romanian, Rhaeto-Romanic languages
  • 855: Italian speeches

Right off the bat, I feel I need to warn readers of this book. It’s a book of speeches given by a middlingly important government official to members of his country’s parliament. These are not remarks given on the world stage or by anyone that a majority of people have even heard of. Tommaso Tittoni was the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1903 to 1909, then again in 1919. He served a small stint as the Acting Prime Minister for 17 days in March 1905. He worked in various capacities for the Italian government for the majority of his life and as such became familiar with the ins and outs of world politics. The speeches collected in Italy’s Foreign and Colonial Policy show just how intertwined the world was at the turn of the 20th century.

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843: Candide by Voltaire

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843.5: Voltaire. Candide, or Optimism. Translated by John Butt. New York: Penguin. 144 pp. ISBN 0-14-044004-6.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 840: Literatures of French and related languages
  • 843: French fiction
  • 843.5: 1715-1789

If you’re looking for one of the most satirical, rollicking, odd, philosophical, and whimsical novels in history, then you needn’t go any further than Voltaire’s Candide. Voltaire’s canonical 1759 work examines the conflict between optimism and realism, between Old World and New World experiences, and between upper class and lower class conditions. But even these dichotomies are too simple for this work. The title character’s adventures begin when he kisses Cunegonde, a relative of the Baron Thunder-ten-Tronckh and is expelled from the estate with his mentor Pangloss. And then the real fun starts.

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865: In Search of the Present by Octavio Paz

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865: Paz, Octavio. In Search of the Present: The 1990 Nobel Lecture. Translated by Anthony Stanton. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1990. 68 pp. ISBN 0-15-644556-5.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 860: Literatures of Spanish and Portuguese languages
  • 865: Spanish speeches

When the Nobel Committee announced Octavio Paz as the laureate in literature in 1990, it was the first time a Mexican writer had been elevated to the position. The committee cited his “impassioned writing with wide horizons, characterized by sensuous intelligence and humanistic integrity.” Every year, if the recipient can, each laureate is invited to Oslo to give a speech to both accept the award and share a little bit of their vision of the world. Paz’s speech, In Search of the Present, is a quiet reflection on his history as a writer, as a reader, and as a lifelong pursuer of the “modern.”

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