Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2020 Issue

Ecce Homo: La Faute à Voltaire...

71841d88-5c29-4c55-a6f1-0b0cba80e24d

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>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 20.<br>Mrs S. C. Belnos.</b> <i>The Sundhya or the Daily Prayers of the Brahmins,</i> 1st edition, 1851. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 20.<br>Sir Harry Darell.</b> <i>China, India, Cape of Good Hope and Vicinity,</i> 1st edition, 1852. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 20.<br><i>Scots Magazine,</i></b> 61 volumes, 1739-1800. With important maps of North America. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Ian Fleming.</b> <i>Casino Royale,</i> 1st edition, 1953. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Virginia Woolf.</b> <i>Really and Truly,</i> 1915. Autograph confessions book. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Evelyn Waugh.</b> <i>Vile Bodies,</i> 1st edition, 1930. £3,000 to £4,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>J. R. R. Tolkien.</b> Autograph letter signed on Old English, with corrected typescript. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Lewis Carroll.</b> <i>The Hunting of the Snark,</i> 1st edition, 1876. Presentation copy. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Essex House Press.</b> <i>Poems of William Shakespeare,</i> 1899. One of 450 copies. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Lafcadio Hearn.</b> <i>A Japanese Miscellany,</i> 1st edition, 1901. Presentation copy. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Jules Verne.</b> <i>Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas,</i> 1st UK edition, 1873. £2,000 to £3,000.
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers, Jan 21.<br>Charles Dickens.</b> <i>The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit,</i> 1st edition, 1844. Original cloth binding. £800 to £1,200.
  • <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>January Auction<br>January 23, 2021</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> AUDUBON, John James. <i>Carolina Parrot, Plate 26.</i> London: Robert Havell, 1827-1838. $125,000 to $175,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> AUDUBON, John James. <i>Fish Hawk or Osprey, Plate 81.</i> London: Robert Havell, 1827-1838. $145,000 to $175,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> AUDUBON, John James. <i>Brown Pelican, Plate 421.</i> London: Robert Havell, 1827-1838. $75,000 to $100,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>January Auction<br>January 23, 2021</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> DE BRY, Johann Theodore, attributed to. Pair of Watercolor studies of Tulips. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> FUERTES, Louis Agassiz. <i>Alaskan Brown Bear.</i> Watercolor and gouache on board. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> HILL, Thomas. <i>Big Trees.</i> Oil on canvas. c. 1903. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>January Auction<br>January 23, 2021</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> GOULD, John. <i>A Monograph of the Macropodidae or Family of Kangaroos.</i> London: by the author, August 1st 1841-May 1st 1842. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> GOULD, John. <i>A Monograph of the Odontophorinae, or Partridges of America.</i> London: Richard and John E. Taylor for the Author, [1844]-1850. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> JANSSONIUS, Joannes. <i>Atlantis majoris quinta pars, orbem maritimum seu omnium marium…</i> Amsterdam: Joannes Janssonius, 1652. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <center><b>Arader Galleries<br>January Auction<br>January 23, 2021</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> DONCKER, Hendrik. <i>De Zee-Atlas ofte Water-Waereld, vertoonende alle de Zee-Kusten van het bekende deel des Aerd-Bodems.</i> Amsterdam: Henrick Doncker, [1658-1665]. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> BURR, David. <i>Map of the City and County of New York with the Adjacent Country.</i> Engraved map with original hand color. Ithaca, NY: Stone & Clark, 1839. $9,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 23:</b> CURRIER, Nathaniel and IVES, James Merritt. <i>The City of New York.</i> Lithograph with original hand color. New York: Currier & Ives, 1884. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Joseph F. Kernan, <i>College Football,</i> oil on canvas, <i>The Saturday Evening Post</i> cover, 1932. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Joseph C. Leyendecker, <i>Golfer Lighting a Cigarette,</i> oil on canvas, c.1920. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Howard Chandler Christy, <i>In the Field,</i> charcoal & watercolor, published in <i>Scribner’s,</i> 1902. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> N.C. Wyeth, <i>Standish Reading,</i> pen & ink, for <i>The Courtship of Miles Standish,</i> 1920. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Johnanna Stewart Mapes, <i>A Fairy Book,</i> conté crayon, for <i>St. Nicholas Magazine,</i> 1907. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Arnold Lobel, pen & ink, for <i>The Frog & Toad Coloring Book,</i> 1981. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Antonio Lopez, <i>Today’s Fashions,</i> study for <i>The New York Times,</i> 1981. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Charles Schulz, <i>“I’ll have to go back to the house…I forgot my rubbers…”</i> pen & ink, original 4-panel <i>Peanuts comic,</i> 1960. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Jan 28:</b> Constantin Alajalov, <i>Family Tree,</i> watercolor and gouache, cover for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1938. Estimate $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <center><b>Il Ponte Casa d'Aste<br>Books and Manuscripts<br>26 January 2021</b>
    <center><b>Il Ponte Casa d'Aste<br>Books and Manuscripts<br>26 January 2021</b>
    <center><b>Il Ponte Casa d'Aste<br>Books and Manuscripts<br>26 January 2021</b>

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions