1. Robert Musil

    Robert Musil Contributor Contributor

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    It's the apocalypse, and you can only save one book. Which one?

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Robert Musil, Apr 18, 2018.

    A while back I saw some awful made-for-tv castoff about the world freezing over due to the hubris of some scientists (or business tycoons, whatever). Pretty forgettable, but one line in there stuck with me: one of the band of plucky survivors reveals that he's brought along a copy of Dante's Divine Comedy. Everyone else doesn't get it, but then he says something like "Well I figured everyone would try and save a volume of Shakespeare, but I thought this was worth saving also."

    So: if you could only save one book for future generations, what would it be?

    The rules are: 1) you have to already own it (no one's running to the bookstore during the Apocalypse), and 2) it has to be a physical book, not an e-book (not trying to wade into the eternal debate about which is better, but it's just a fact that Kindles will run out of charge pretty quick in the Apocalypse).

    For me, I think it's gotta be Kafka, and it's gotta be The Trial. I was going to say a volume of his short stories, but in enforcing my own rules upon myself I despairingly realized that I can't find my copy of his collected stories. But I think something of his needs saving because he has this quality of being weirdly timeless and place-less, which I think makes his writing somehow both deep and accessible.

    And, I mean, people who know more about Literature than me also think he's important, so there's that.

    Anyway, lets hear it: boil civilization down into one book.
     
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  2. Night Herald

    Night Herald The guy in the $4,000 suit. Supporter

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    That's a hard question to answer. Do you go the selfish route, and save a personal favorite, or do you grab one of the literary greats to preserve for posterity? Do you go for something comparatively obscure, hoping that someone else got the Shakespeare covered? What if everybody thinks like that, and we find ourselves stuck without the Bard? How awkward that would be.

    I own a copy of the Divine Comedy, and I think that would be a worthy candidate, but your guy up there already took care of that, so it's cool.

    I'm reasonably sure that the Iliad and Odyssey combo will make it. They've come a long way to be with us here today. So I'll leave them behind as well. Besides, those are two books, and I couldn't make the choice between them.

    My selfish choice would probably be Neuromancer, but I'm going to think of the greater good. Besides, that book has enough other rabid fans that someone will inevitably secure it.

    I really want to pick Book of the New Sun, but there are two of those. Just the one physical book, right?

    Really tough call to make, even if I discount anything that's a series, or that I own in multiple volumes.

    So, I'm going to have to opt for Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, the Barnes & Noble Collectible Edition, for the following reasons:

    It's a really nice-looking tome, and I might need something pretty and colorful to look at to ward off the Doomsday Depression Syndrome.
    It's got sentimental value for me.
    These are old tales that I would like to see make it into the post-post-apocalypse.
    It can, in a pinch, be used to bludgeon raiders.
    It might serve as a field manual for questing in general, and the slaying of radioactive dragon-analogs in particular.
    I haven't actually read much of it yet, and this would give me a chance to.

    ETA: If I have to limit myself to the handful of books that I have here, at the apartment, then it's Neuromancer without a shadow of a doubt.
     
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  3. Robert Musil

    Robert Musil Contributor Contributor

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    Look at you, being all practical. When you find my body burned to a crisp from losing a fight with a dragon, I hope you just remember what a hero I was for saving The Trial.
     
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  4. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    Ooh, with that logic I'm going with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I've got a Shakespeare collection that's bigger, but it's not hardcover :D

    I'd be selfish about it. I'm not taking something that I think would be meaningful to the situation or to other people. But I'm not taking something that I already love and have read a thousand times, either, because I can tell myself those stories without having to read them. I'd want to take something I haven't read before, and the first thing that came to mind (because I've had it for years and haven't gotten around to reading it yet) was V For Vendetta. Can't use that one as a weapon, though ... Or I might go for the Shakespeare because I haven't read all of it, and it'd keep me going for a while with a lot of different plays and sonnets.

    On the other hand, we probably have limited space in our apocalypse supply backpacks, and do I really want to dedicate that much room and weight to ol' Billy Shakes when it could be food? It's a dense collection, so there's a lot of content per ounce/inch, but it's still pretty big and heavy. Maybe I'd grab Junji Ito's Cat Diary. It's small, and we're still going to need to laugh at funny cats when the world's ended, right? Or maybe my Invisible Man / War of the Worlds combo -- again, small, but it's got two stories in one book.

    Of course, if I had anything published in print, you know that's what I'd save.
     
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  5. Night Herald

    Night Herald The guy in the $4,000 suit. Supporter

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    Of course. And if it becomes necessary to dine on your remains, I will strive to do so with the outmost reverence. I will of course inherit the burden of lugging The Trial around. Who knows? Maybe one day it will form the basis of a brave new judicial system.

    @izzybot, because I couldn't be arsed to figure out how to edit in a proper quote:
    Of course. That's got to be priority one. The Prime Directive. If nothing else, the market will be much less saturated. Let's hope there's still time.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2018
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  6. DeusXMachina

    DeusXMachina Member

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    The Human Comedy by William Saroyan. It's a beautiful, quiet little story that helped me literally to survive when I was a teenager and since then, reread countless times, has preserved my belief in the good in humankind time and time again.

    And I'm selfish enough to admit that it'd be less for future generations than because I don't want to go without it, especially not through an apocalypse. I also own several physical copies of it, so chances are high that I'll be able to grab at least one of them even in a hurry.

    ETA: Thinking about it, I could take my gold-plated leather-bound luxury edition of Shakespeare's oeuvre and declare it an investment, couldn't I? Or a weapon. It'd be totally feasible to club someone to death with that thing. Or it could get used as a doorstopper. Everybody needs a doorstopper at hand.
     
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  7. soupcannon

    soupcannon Active Member

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    1. noun; the act or process of locating.
    Because I could not resist a good (or bad) joke, in the event of an apocalypse, I would save a copy of the Yellow Pages.
     
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  8. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Can I cheat and go with a boxset of Harry Potter? I think it's inspired more children/teenagers to read than any other book in living memory, and that's what I would want to pass down to future generations.
     
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  9. Necronox

    Necronox Senior Member

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    If we're doing cheat-books, then i'm going to go with "A Compilation of All Written Works".

    Otherwise, I would have to go with À la recherche du temps perdu by Proust, simply because it's such an extensive work - at over 1.2 million words and over 1200 pages that I would have extensive reading (and cleaning) material whilst on the toilet to last me a very long time. Call me pragmatic, but everyone needs reading materials whilst attending to nature's call. Besides, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" will get boring very quickly after reading it for the twelve-thousandth time.

    Edit: However, since I don't actually own that particular work, well at least not personally (my family does have the set of volumes, but it is not mine) I would have to go with the only copy of the lengthiest work I do, actually, personally own which is Thucydides "A History of the Peloponnesian War"
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2018
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  10. Robert Musil

    Robert Musil Contributor Contributor

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    @Tenderiser as long as it obeys the two rules I laid out at the top, I, who am apparently in charge of this apocalypse, will allow it.

    But only on condition of you tearing out that stupid epilogue featuring Albus Severus et al. I think humanity can afford to lose that.
     
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  11. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Deal!
     
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  12. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My offer, plus proof that I played fair. ;) A deceptively simple tale of one man's adventure. A deep lesson about the dangers of insularism and the pitfall of the "nostalgia trap", and a lot more besides.

    IMG_0536.JPG
     
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  13. Danyal

    Danyal New Member

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    Obviously The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring ( if we're cheating all 3 Lord of the Rings books)

    Think it would inspire the people left on the desolate planet to not lose hope and to go places you would never think of going.

    (Have to think what book would save humanity as well)
     
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  14. Robert Musil

    Robert Musil Contributor Contributor

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    Now I'm wondering if there's some project like the Svalbard seed vault, but for books. It wouldn't be too hard to find some deep underground space to store books in, would it? You might need to take precautions against moisture (or somehow write the books on a more durable medium than paper), but I bet it could be done pretty easily.
     
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  15. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale The Caliph of al-Abama Contributor

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    On the theory that many of the books I love (Use of Weapons, The Algebraist) will be covered by someone else, I'm going to go with Phillip Gourevitch's We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families. It's pretty much the definitive account of the Rwandan genocide, and as clear a marker as I can think of to show whoever finds our remains that humanity should not be missed.
     
  16. Samunderthelights

    Samunderthelights Active Member

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    I'd have to go for Harry Potter too. If it really is the one thing that future generations can read, I think it'd be a great choice. Perhaps not technically the best books ever, but definitely my favourite to read. And I think there are some very positive messages in there, which would definitely be necessary in case of an apocalypse.
     
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  17. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    If we're saving a book for "future generations" why wouldn't it be an ebook? Once they get the power back up, they can read all the books that they want on that Kindle you should have saved.
     
  18. Moon

    Moon Halloween lord Contributor

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    Dune series boxset. It'll keep me busy for a lifetime, so it's a must have in the post apocalypse. :p
     
  19. GlitterRain7

    GlitterRain7 Galaxy Girl Contributor

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    I think I'd save The Outsiders. It's a classic, and it's quite inspiring (at least to me) that S.E. Hinton wrote it as a teenager. Perhaps it would inspire future teens to write and build up the collection of books in the world again.
     
  20. Jenissej

    Jenissej Member Supporter

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    I immediately thought of The Trial too. It's not my favourite Kafka story but aside from The Metamorphosis the only one I own. Figuring that one out would keep me busy for a while. But we got that covered already.
    One of my favourite fantasy books, The Crown Tower, would only leave me craving for the rest of the series and I know that one by heart. So assuming someone will get Goethe's Faust covered, I'd go with my Poe short story collection.
     
  21. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale The Caliph of al-Abama Contributor

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    NOOOOoooo!!!! Kafka's last request was that all of his books be burned unread, and his traitorous friend published them instead. It's up to us to right that wrong, and given the ubiquity of the printing press, not to mention xerox machines and the bloody internet herself, a civilizational collapse is our best hope for consigning his work to oblivion so that his spirit can pass peacefully thereunto as well.
     
  22. Jenissej

    Jenissej Member Supporter

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    I take it you didn't relish doing literary criticism on Kafka back in school?
     
  23. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale The Caliph of al-Abama Contributor

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    From the New York Times:

    And no, they never forced me to read him, it's just that his work has pioneered a path which some writers have chosen to abuse, IMHO. Write nonsensical stories with no plot, theme, or coherency, declare them "Kafkaesque," and stomp off in a cloud of false literary pretension.

    [​IMG]
     
  24. Jenissej

    Jenissej Member Supporter

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    I knew about his last will. Hasn't stopped my school from filling a whole year of their curriculum with it...

    Unfortunately, I have to agree with your point. Good thing I've decided against taking it then ;)
    For when the apocalyptic end of civilization comes, I grant you permission to throw my copies of this literary body-stripping into the fires.
     
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  25. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale The Caliph of al-Abama Contributor

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    And recently apparently the state of Israel has been fighting with someone or other over who owns the copyright to his work. I'm sure it's complicated and all, but if I were a judge and saw that will, I'd say "Screw you" to all parties and chuck it into public domain.
     

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