The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Thought du jour

I finally finished all twenty pages of Voltaire's Micromegas en francais. The good news is that with practice my French is becoming less rusty.
I had little doubt that Voltaire was heavily influenced by Jonathan Swift, especially (but not exclusively) by Gulliver's Travels, which is evident in Candide, but after reading Micromegas, I have no doubt that he probably memorized most of GT.
Here's a little tidbit for the day, a pensee philosophiqe, by an uncharacteristically optimistic Voltaire. I quote the french and append my own translation. Incidentally, my OUP translation by Roger Pearson is, although sometimes too literal, quite good, but I'm too lazy to go upstairs and get it :)

J'ai été dans des pays où l'on vit mille fois plus longtemps que chez moi, et j'ai trouvé qu'on y murmurait encore. Mais il y a partout des gens de bon sens qui savent prendre leur parti et remercier l'auteur de la nature. Il a répandu sur cet univers une profusion de variétés avec une espèce d'uniformité admirable. Par exemple tous les êtres pensants sont différents, et tous se ressemblent au fond par le don de la pensée et des désirs. La matière est partout étendue; mais elle a dans chaque globe des propriétés diverses.

I have been in countries/planets where they live a thousand times longer than where I'm from, and I've found that they still grumble. But everywhere there are people of god sense who know how to use what they have and thank the author of nature. He has spread over this universe a copious variety with an admirable uniformity. For example, all thinking beings are different, yet they all resemble each other in essense by the gift of thought and desires. Matter is infintely extended, but it has different properties in each world. (Micromegas, ch. 2)

I don't know why I liked this; perhaps I'm not as cynical as I think I am :) And I'm not one of those who is so arrogant that they cannot admit the grandeur of the cosmos and submit themselves wholly to the intelligence/power behind it. If I were better at math, I would most likely have become an astronomer. Thus ends my sermon for the day :)
Incidentally, and I don't know how I missed this, Micromegas name is Micro-mega, that is, small-big, and he's 120, 000 feet tall (you gotta love Voltaire's hyperbole).


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