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Wednesday, 2 July 2008

He really should have had a blog.

This post is for the Nonbelieving Literati and refers to Voltaire's Zadig.

Voltaire should have had a blog. Look at him, right there on the page, Mister Magpie Mind himself in fits and starts and 'and thens', in conceits and delights slopped messily onto the page with very little editing. Make that no editing at all. He'd have been right at home in the blogging world, being witty and sarcastic and off-the-cuff with the best of them. I'd love to read Voltaire's blog. Wouldn't you?

I laugh, almost, at the way that nothing that happens is Zadig's fault. It seems disingenuous to me, almost tongue-in-cheek. "Oh please, good sirs, I acted with the purest of intentions!" I can't shake off the feeling that Voltaire is sitting inside the page laughing at us, protesting his own innocence when he knows his own tongue was downright wicked at times! It's conceit, I tell you, pure careless conceit, and I don't think Voltaire cares who knows it. There is a liberation in it, a sort of permission to love yourself with wry honesty and accept that, deep down, you're rather partial to yourself. Now, aren't you? Admit it.

Zadig might be the character Voltaire would like to be, cheerful and rational in the face of adversity, penetrating but still diplomatic, conveniently following a course of events that demonstrates everything Voltaire feels like demonstrating. Time and again, science and rationality triumph in the hands of Zadig -- as does the notion of a more abstract Supreme Being, a Creator that does not depend on petty religious details.

It's not an easy story to follow; basically one thing happens after another and that is very nearly it. You could break it up into small pieces and maybe enjoy it more. Indeed, while reading it, I found the best way to enjoy it was simply to enjoy the moment and not care about the mess it made as a whole. No doubt it would also be easier to understand if you were reading it at the time it was written, because there are plenty of references that no longer make sense.

So, yes. It would have been better as a blog. Oh, but I thought it was fun for all that.


Apologies for my long absence. The closer I get to leaving, the more urgent this real world over here feels. I've found my passport. I've told the guy I like that I like him (He does not quite return the same sentiment, alas, but at least I've said it). I'm supposed to visit my dear old gran, and buy my sisters birthday presents, and I still have paperwork to fill out, and -- well. It's not for a couple of months, yet, but it feels awfully close.


L.L. Barkat said...

Where are you going, dear friend? Sounds like a trip to look forward to.

It's fun, isn't it, to speculate on who may or may not have had a blog, had time and circumstance been different...

Alon Levy said...

They pamphleted; you blog.

About the story's sense, I think the main relic of the time it was written is the vibrant, exotic Persian setting. Nowadays Western literary fiction is likelier to be set in an environment the author is very familiar with. References to other parts of the world (with the exception of ancestral homelands) will generally be stereotypical and pulpy, even in otherwise high-brow novels.

Lynet said...

LL, I'm going to California, in two months' time, to do a PhD.

That's five years of my life we're talking about, so yes, I'm looking forward to it, but I'm also scared - as if I were five years closer to being dead already. I never thought to have part of my life planned up to the age of twenty-eight.