Satirist, novelist, poet, dramatist, historian, moralist, critic, courtier, and correspondent, champion of reason and fanatical adversary of fanaticism, a darling of kings with the unfortunate habit of turning them into enemies, François Arouet de Voltaire is one of the few writers to have imposed his name on an entire epoch. It is entirely appropriate that the French Enlightenment is also known as “the Age of Voltaire.” And if that age ended with a revolution, Voltaire was nothing if not a subversive. His abiding motto was “Écrasez l’infame“: “Crush infamy.”
This encyclopedic anthology acquaints us with Voltaire’s mercurial range of expression as well as with the steadfastness of his vision, which might be called the religion of reason. It includes his sardonic comedies Candide and Zadig: the tales “Micromegas” and “Story of a Good Brahmin”; more than seventy articles from the Philosophical Dictionary that offer heretical definitions of subjects from Adultery to Tyrrany; letters written to such correspondents as Frederick the Great and Jean-Jacques Rousseau; selections from The English Letters and Essay on the Manners and Spirit of Nations, and the long poem “The Lisbon Earthquake.” The whole is rounded out with an Introduction by Ben Ray Redman, which distills Voltaire’s prodigious oeuvre while summing up the grand picaresque adventure of life.