Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Category: 860s

863: Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

DDC_863

863.3: Miguel de Cervantes. Don Quixote of the Mancha. Translated by Thomas Shelton. New York: P.F. Collier & Son Corporation, 1969. 516 pp.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature and Rhetoric
  • 860: Spanish and Portuguese literatures
  • 863: Spanish fiction
  • 863.3: Golden Age, 1516—1699

Cervantes’s Don Quixote is one of the granddaddies of Western literature. First published in 1605, it follows the whimsical adventures of Alonso Quixano and his friend Sancho Panza as they travel across the Spanish countryside looking for adventure and knightly acclaim. The main conceit of the novel is that Quixano has become addled by age and has read way too many novels about chivalry and knights-errant. Slowly but surely, he convinces himself that he is also a great man worthy of the adulations of those in his novels. He styles himself Don Quixote de la Mancha and strong arms a local farmer Sancho Panza into going out and righting the many wrongs he sees.

In addition to deluding himself, he also re-imagines the world around him through the lens of chivalry. Regular windmills become frightful giants, herds of sheep become warring sides of classic knights, lowly inns become great castles, and so on. The adventures are both humorous and sad. At each turn, our two heroes are beaten and bruised, or at the very least, made fools of. I admired Sancho’s resolve to stick by his hidalgo even though he could have fled at almost every moment and left Don Quixote to fend for himself. In trying to show the ridiculousness of the old ways, the book shows that some of them are worth preserving.

The chapters are episodic, so the story moves along at a predictable pace, but there is no real story here—just a string of tales to regale the reader. That being said, there is a lot to unpack in this novel. It predates almost everything else, so many of the tricks of the trade find their home here, including modern pastiche, metafiction, and social critique. My translation was just a lightly edited version of the original 1620 Thomas Shelton work, so the writing for me was very stilted. I have looked at a few pages of other translations, and if you can get the Edith Grossman or the Tom Lathrop, you will have a better time than I had. All in all, it is a tremendous work worthy of the time required.

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865: In Search of the Present by Octavio Paz

DDC_865

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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860: The Literature of Jealousy in the Age of Cervantes by Steven Wagschal

DDC_860

860.9: Wagschal, Steven. The Literature of Jealousy in the Age of Cervantes. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2006. 191 pp. ISBN 978-0-8262-1696-0.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 860: Literatures of Spanish and Portuguese languages
  • 860.9: History and criticism

Spanish literature from the 16th and 17th century is some of the most intriguing, most fun, and most exciting that has ever been written. New techniques, new philosophies, and new cultures all combined to form works that revitalized the populace and helped to expand imaginative writing. Steven Wagschal’s Literature of Jealousy in the Age of Cervantes focuses on a few writers of this timeframe and how they interpreted both the cultural and emotional landscape of the region. His main focus is on the titular emotion of jealousy. Jealousy in Spain was different from that in other regions in Europe. It was a widely-varied, highly refined topic, so much so that Lope de Vega (1562-1635) wrote six whole plays with jealousy in the title. Oddly enough, Wagschal uses philosophical frameworks from Descartes and Freud to examine the Spanish works. He does, however, wisely incorporate the works of Valencian scholar Juan Vives as well. While Wagschal’s theses are varied, they do take into account the beginning of Spain’s decline as an empire, new humanist teachings, and a more detailed reading of the works of Cervantes, Vega, and Luis de Gongora y Argote.

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869: Death with Interruptions by Jose Saramago

869.42: Saramago, Jose. Death with Interruptions. New York: Harcourt, 2008. 238 pp. ISBN 978-0-15-101274-9.

Dewey Construction:

  • 800: Literature
  • 860: Spanish and Portuguese literatures
  • 869: Portuguese literature
  • +42: Authors starting between 1945 and 1999

Jose Saramago’s Death with Interruptions is a continuation of his magical realism virtuoso. If you’ve read other works by Saramago, then you’re well-equipped for what’s coming. If not, prepare for a wild ride. In this book, he imagines a country in which death stops. But just in that one country. People age and die elsewhere around the world. So what happens to a government and a society when death no longer intervenes?

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868: Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges

868.62: Borges, Jorge Luis. Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writing. Edited by Donald A. Yates and James E. Irby. New York: New Directions, n.d. 251 pp. ISBN 0-8112-0012-4.

The various literatures of the world are stuffed into the 800s, and as such, it is a cornucopia of delights. Spanish literature in contained in the 860s, and 868 is the place for Spanish miscellaneous writing. You don’t necessary have to be from Spain to be considered a Spanish writer. Borges, for instance, was from Argentina, but since his primary writing language was Spanish, that’s where he sits. “Miscellaneous writing” denotes collections that contain essays, plays, letters, poetry, stories, novellas, or any combination thereof.

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