Le 4 février 2016, s’est tenu, dans l’amphithéâtre Guizot à la Sorbonne, un débat autour de Voltaire. Deux écrivains contemporains de premier plan, Hédi Kaddour et Pierre Jourde, sont venus parler de « leur » Voltaire à un public dense et conquis.
Academics are constantly reminded of the debts owed to previous generations of scholars. We footnote them, refer to their work, profit from their travails, build on their groundwork and sometimes correct their errors. As the Voltaire Foundation embarks upon the critical edition of the Lettres sur les Anglais for the complete works collection, we are again delving back into the network of places that the Frenchman visited and people he encountered during his sojourn in England.
The Palace of Versailles is mounting a magnificent exhibition entitled ‘Le Roi est mort’ to mark the tercentenary of the death of Louis XIV. The exhibits, artefacts, texts, and background music document the king’s last days, how his body was treated after his death on 1 September 1715, and the rituals of mourning imposed during the long period which followed until his funeral in St Denis on 23 October.
After the killings on 7 January 2015 in the offices of Charlie Hebdo, Voltaire of all people suddenly rushed into public prominence in France, serving as a symbol of (one supposes) free speech, satire, tolerance, and a certain insolence éclairée. His image sprang up on walls and lampposts, quotations and misquotations appeared on placards, and the Traité sur la tolérance flew off bookstore shelves across the country.
Pour la France, et pour Paris en particulier, l’année 2015 se sera terminée aussi douloureusement qu’elle avait commencé. Il nous a paru opportun, pour cette dernière livraison avant le nouvel an, de revenir sur la place centrale qu’occupait le combat contre l’intolérance chez Voltaire et ses amis philosophes.
At the beginning of his 1791 Les Ruines, Constantin-François de Volney describes himself sitting amidst the ruins of Palmyra, on the edge of the Syrian desert. As his gaze shifts back and forth between the ancient monuments and the open horizon, he sinks into a profound reverie. It is the beginning of a long meditation on the principles that govern the rise and fall of civilizations.
In one of the letters recounting his travels around Europe, Johann III Bernoulli describes the events of a bitterly cold day in Geneva in November 1774. The day begins with a meeting with Voltaire’s publisher Cramer, and an offer to be taken to visit the great man, followed by a walk around town and an unexpected meeting with an old man in Turkish dress. Bernoulli correctly guesses that this is the painter Jean-Etienne Liotard,  famed for the truthfulness of his portraits and the exquisite depiction of his subjects’ dress.