Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Category: 840s

843: Candide by Voltaire

DDC_843

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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840: French Literature Before 1800 by Bradley and Michell

840.8: Michell, Robert Bell and Robert Foster Bradley, eds. French Literature Before 1800. New York: F. S. Crofts & Co., 1936. 493 pp.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 840: French literature
  • 840.8: Collection of literary texts of French literature in more than one form

The history of French literature can trace its roots back to the Chansons de Roland about the brave and chivalrous life of Roland, knight of the court of Charlemagne. From there, poetry, drama, and novels evolved to showcase the philosophy of their respective eras. Classical forms gave way to more modern and progressive ways for expressing the human condition. Robert Michell and Robert Bradley’s French Literature Before 1800 is a volume intended to give the reader a major overview of the lives, techniques, themes, and philosophies of those who shaped the landscape of French up to the 19th century.

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842: No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre

DDC_842

842.914: Sartre, Jean-Paul. “No Exit”. In No Exit and Three Other Plays. Translated by Stuart Gilbert. New York: Vintage, 1972. 46 pp. ISBN 0-394-70016-3.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 840: Literatures of French and Romance languages
  • 842: French drama
  • 842.9: 20th Century to the present
  • 842.91: 1900 to 1999
  • 842.914: 1945 to 1999

Jean-Paul Sartre’s play “No Exit” is an interesting look at human interactions when nothing else can distract them. The play involves three people, valeted into a room in Hell one at a time, and then coming to grips with what exactly Hell means. Sartre’s famous quote—“Hell is other people”—is the culmination of their interactions. There’s Garcin, the serial philanderer who deserted the army and was executed by firing squad, Inez, the postal clerk whose affair with a woman led that woman to kill her husband, and Estelle, the aristocrat whose affair bore a child that she subsequently killed. Each firmly belongs where they are, but they squabble with other over petty things. The room they are in has no mirror, so each person must trust the other’s perception of how they look.

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841: Leaves of Hypnos by Rene Char

841.91: Char, Rene. Leaves of Hypnos (Extracts) and Lettera Amorosa. Translated by Jackson Mathews. Rome, Italy: Istituto Grafico Tiberino, 1944. 62 pp.

The 810s through the 860s are rather repetitive. Each division is literature from a different geographic culture (810 is American, 820 is British, 830 is German, and so on), then a pattern repeats: poetry, fiction, essays, speeches, letters, etc. The 840s are French literature, and xx1 denotes poetry, so 841 is French poetry. French poetry is a pretty expansive field, going back all the way to the troubadours of medieval Europe. In my library, I only have three books to choose from: a small volume of light poetry (but completely in French), a thick collection of Baudelaire’s works, and today’s selection.

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