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reading - 4 01 2003 - 13:06 - katatonik

What to read when fighting wars

Between 1943 and 1947, the Pentagon distributed more than 123 million books published as part of the “Armed Services Edition” (ASE), consisting mainly in works of fiction. The published titles ranged from Tarzan over “Oliver Twist” to Hemingway short stories, from Plato over John Steinbeck to William Faulkner. By 1947, the series included over 1300 titles. It is believed that the lasting success of Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” owed a great deal to its release as an ASE publication.

In 2002, the ASE project was revived on the initiative of Andrew Carroll. In a joint effort, the publishers Hyperion, Simon & Schuster, and Dover Publications released four titles: “Medal of Honor: Profiles of America’s Military Heroes from the Civil War to the Present”, by Allen Mikaelian, with commentary by Mike Wallace (Hyperion, 2002), “Henry V”, by William Shakespeare (Dover, 2002), “The Art of War”, by Sun Tzu (Dover, 2002), and “War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars”, edited by Andrew Carroll (Washington Square Press/Simon & Schuster, 2002).

The series is to be continued. Whether it will, like its ancestor, expand towards coverage of works of literature not necessarily tied to war and its history, is presently unknown.

(Source: Süddeutsche Zeitung, January 2, 2003).

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