Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2020 Issue

Ecce Homo: La Faute à Voltaire...

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On October 16, French teacher Samuel Paty was murdered and beheaded in the middle of the street, near Paris, France, by a Muslim fanatic. Paty had shown Muhammad’s caricatures (see our article on Charlie Hebdo) to his students while discussing ‘freedom of speech’ with them—as expected and required by the National Education program. A few days later, a young fanatic decided to do the Prophet justice. Samuel Paty was no racist, no extremist—he was a dedicated teacher who regularly partook in programs with the French Institute of Islam.

 

What died with Paty that dark day is the humanist ideology of the Lumières. From the remoteness of the 18th century, the Lumières have been our guiding lights in the darkness of obscurantism. We fed on their mammals, and they made a promise to us: our intelligence and a lucid look at the world would take us out of the dark. We would learn from our many mistakes and setbacks, and we would triumph one day because we are seeking the Light. Science, rationalism and cooperation between all men of good will would finally prevail for the sake of humanity. Did they lie to us? Or did we stop listening to them for the past few decades? The Lumières have faded, darkness fell back on our shoulders and mediocrity took over—as well as cowardice. Books are not the backbone of our civilization anymore. Mathematics has replaced them, and the Internet has changed the course of humanity just like the discovery of America has. Welcome to a brand new world where ‘pet posts’ rule, and where Voltaire and his likes have become... obsolete.

 

Who is Voltaire to the French, today? A clown wearing a ridiculous wig in the best case; a filthy racist for the “oppressed minorities” who never read his books. His statue was officially removed from a Parisian square the other day—so the idiots win. We let our hero down under the pressure of people who know but two passages of his works, where he wrote that “Negroes are inferior to monkeys”—this is not what we love in Voltaire although it’s a not fair to judge him with our current values. In fact, people who fight Voltaire do not fight the man, but a painful past that they find convenient to totally blame on the wickedness of others. Let’s mention that some of these “avengers” hate Jews as much as Voltaire, who constantly endeavoured to destroy the myths upon which their religion stands, as the footstool of Catholicism.

 

On the other hand, those who celebrate Voltaire do not celebrate him as a man either, but as a symbol of intelligence and resistance against fanaticism, and especially the Church. Our heroes are not perfect. As Rimbaud wrote: Ô saisons, ô chateaux, quelle âme est sans défauts? Ô seasons, ô castles, where is a perfect soul? But we didn’t stand for Voltaire like he stood for François-Jean de La Barre or Jean Calas; we are forsaking his valuable inheritance for fear of being prejudiced. People who appreciate Voltaire keep a low profile nowadays. Better not to tell—else, you’ll be the target of an intellectual fatwa of ignorant people who will accuse you of being a fascist, a monster. But aren’t terrorists the real monsters? Well, no—they have their reasons. Yeah? Yeah, you provoked them. This is what French writer Michel Houellebecq calls “subjugation” in his famous novel. France has been complacent with her enemies within for too long. So that when the French Republic removed Voltaire’s statue—officially because it was too costly to repair it—it was more than a symbol; it was a betrayal, and very bad omen.

 

For decades, out of political fear of hurting people’s feelings, we’ve accepted the unacceptable. Out of contrition, we are betraying our principles and are losing our way. Our ship is drifting away on a sea of darkness and she is suffering multiple assaults from within—and the crew isn’t even trying to fight back. Was Samuel Paty’s last breath—while being brutally beheaded by ignorance, wickedness and complacency—the last breath of our agonizing civilization? When the murderer posted the picture of his severed head on Instagram, he got dozens of “likes.” How indecent! How revolting! So, when your head rolls on the ground, it is actually not the killer’s fault—it is, of course, la faute à Voltaire—Voltaire’s fault, to quote Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.

 

Environmental disasters, economical and sanitary crisis, overpopulation of underdeveloped countries, the rise of China... If the West shows itself unable to cope with those crucial issues, then it will crumble in front of our eyes like the Empire Roman. But the terrorists who killed Samuel Paty and three other civilians a few weeks later in Paris may have missed the mark. And France might wake up and realize that darkness is closing in on us. And that the only way is to follow this remote and fragile light kindled by Voltaire and his likes. France is not a perfect country, Ô seasons, ô castles..., but this little light of ours, we gonna let it shine. With the help of all men of good will. That’s why France will never die. Because Voltaire is forever—unless we watch him die without reacting.

 


Posted On: 2020-11-30 22:34
User Name: mairin

A good piece, Thibault, a rousing piece. Appreciate the strong writing and POV --
necessary words from our RareBookHub associate in Paris.
- Maureen E. Mulvihill, Collector & RBH Writer.
___


Posted On: 2020-12-01 08:29
User Name: gilles

Cher monsieur,

Il serait bien que France Culture donne un peu plus la parole à ceux qui défendent les mêmes idées que votre texte [voir https://vigilanceuniversites.wordpress.com/] et non pas toujours aux teneurs des théories décoloniales, racialistes, dont certains sont complaisants avec l'islamisme.

Cordialement, Gilles DENIS


Posted On: 2020-12-02 06:50
User Name: EHRENGARDT

Dear Gilles and Maureen, thanks for your comments!


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b><center>Sotheby’s<br>Bibliothèque littéraire<br>Hubert Heilbronn<br>11 May 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s May 11:</b> Breton, André. <i>Nadja.</i> Paris, N.R.F., Gallimard, 1928. €15,000 to €20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s May 11:</b> [Stendhal, Henri Beyle dit]. <i>Le Rouge et le Noir,</i> chronique du XIXe siècle. Paris, Levavasseur, 1831. €20,000 to €30,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s May 11:</b> Dumas, Alexandre. <i>Les Trois mousquetaires.</i> 1844. 8 vols. In 4. Paris, Baudry, 1844. €30,000 to €50,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s May 11:</b> Mallarmé, Stéphane -- Edgar Allan Poe. <i>Les Poèmes d’Edgar Poe.</i> Bruxelles, Edmond Deman, 1888. €18,000 to €25,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s May 11:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Le côté de Guermantes II. Sodome et Gomorrhe I. [and] Sodome et Gomorrhe II.</i> Paris, N.R.F., 1921 et 1922. €20,000 to €30,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> <i>Westvaco–Inspirations for Printers,</i> 3 volumes, 1938-61. $200 to $300.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> Proef van Letteren, <i>Welk gegooten worden in de Nieuwe Haerlemsche Lettergietery,</i> 1768. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> Paul Klee, <i>Bauhaus Ausstellung Juli – Sept.,</i> Weimar, 1923. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> Michel Seuphor & Jozef Peeters, <i>Het Overzicht Nos.</i> 22-23-24, Antwerp, 1922. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> Wolfrum & Co., <i>Modern Graphik, Serie I…,</i> complete portfolio, 1909. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> <i>Gravure et Fonderie deC. Derriey: Specimen-Album,</i> Paris, 1862. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>12/13 May<br>Printed Books, Maps & Prints, Numismatic Books from the Milne-Henderson Collection</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> Mariette (Pierre-Jean). <i>Traité des pierres gravées / Recueil des pierres gravées...,</i> 2 vols., 1750. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> [Bryant, Jacob & William Cole]. <i>Gemmarum Antiquarum Delectus, [Marlborough Gems],</i> 2 volumes, [privately printed, 1780-83], £800 to £1,200.
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> Caylus (Anne Claude Philippe, Comte de). <i>Recueil d'Antiquités Egyptiennes, Estrusques, Grecques et Romaines,</i> 7 volumes, Paris, 1756-67, £700 to £1,000.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>12/13 May<br>Printed Books, Maps & Prints, Numismatic Books from the Milne-Henderson Collection</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> Devonshire Gems. <i>Duke of Devonshire's Collection of Gems,</i> privately printed, c. 1790, [one of 8 copies], £1,500 to £2,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> Goltz (Hubert). <i>Le Vive Imagini di tutti quasi gl'Imperatori,</i> Antwerp, 1557, £500 to £800.
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> Manuscript. <i>An Explanation of Dassier's Medals, by Charlotte Hanbury,</i> c. 1795-1800, £700 to £1,000.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>12/13 May<br>Printed Books, Maps & Prints, Numismatic Books from the Milne-Henderson Collection</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> Paoletti (Bartolomeo and Pietro). A collection of 300 plaster cameos presented in 7 leather-bound double-sided faux book boxes, Rome, c. 1820, £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> Mayer (Luigi). <i>Views in Egypt, from the Original Drawings, in the Possession of Sir Robert Ainslie,</i> London: Thomas Bensley for R. Bowyer, 1805, £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> Blaeu (Willem Janszoon & Johannes). <i>Theatrum orbis terrarum, sive Atlas novus, pars quarta</i> [England and Wales], Amsterdam: Johannem Blaeu, 1648, £6,000 to £8,000.
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>12/13 May<br>Printed Books, Maps & Prints, Numismatic Books from the Milne-Henderson Collection</b>
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> Reuter (O.M. & Mela, A.J.). <i>Finlands Fiskar. The Fishes of Finland,</i> 12 parts (complete), Helsingfors: G.W. Edlund, 1883-93, £500 to £800.
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> Lunardi (Vincenzo). <i>An Account of the First Aerial Voyage in England,</i> 2nd edition, London: Printed for the Author, 1784, £700 to £1,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter, 12/13 May:</b> North America. Jansson (Jan). <i>Virginiae partis Australis et Floridae partis Orientalis,</i> circa 1641. £400 to £600.
  • <center><b>Hindman Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts,<br>Including Americana<br>Live and Online<br>May 12, 2021</b>
    <b>Hindman Auctions, May 12:</b> CURRIER and IVES, publishers -- After Frances F. Palmer. The Rocky Mountains. Emigrants Crossing the Plains, 1866. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, May 12:</b> [BIBLE, in English]. <i>The New Testament of Jesus Christ, translated faithfully into English.</i> Rheims, 1582. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, May 12:</b> [BIBLE, in Latin]. <i>Biblia latina.</i> Venice: Franz Renner of Hailbrun [Heilbrunn], 1483. $3,000 to $4,000.
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    <b>Hindman Auctions, May 12:</b> RAMSAY, David (1749-1815). <i>The History of the Revolution of South-Carolina…</i> Trenton: Isaac Collins, 1785. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, May 12:</b> [BINDINGS]. MUIR, John (1838-1914). <i>The Writings of John Muir.</i> Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1916-1924. 10 vols. $2,000 to $3,000.
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    <b>Hindman Auctions, May 12:</b> [CHICAGO] -- <i>Park & Guide Map of Chicago.</i> Chicago: Jas. Van Vechten, 1873. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, May 12:</b> CURRIER and IVES, publishers -- After Frances F. Palmer. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Hindman Auctions, May 12:</b> [ALLEN PRESS]. SHAKESPEARE, William (1564-1616). <i>Romeo and Juliet.</i> Greenbrae: Allen Press, 1988. $1,000 to $1,500.
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