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FRANCOIS MARIE AROUET DE VOLTAIRE

Introduction To Zadig The Babylonian
Jealousy
The Basilisk
The Blind Of One Eye
The Combats
The Disputes And The Audiences
The Dog And The Horse
The Envious Man
The Fisherman
The Funeral Pile
The Generous
The Hermit
The Minister
The Nose
The Robber
The Stone
The Supper
The Woman Beaten

Library Of The World's Best Mystery And Detective Stories

An Uncomfortable Bed
Fear
Ghosts
Introduction To Zadig The Babylonian
Jealousy
Melmoth Reconciled
Pliny The Younger
The Adventure Of The Three Robbers
The Basilisk
The Blind Of One Eye
The Combats
The Confession
The Conscript
The Deposition
The Disputes And The Audiences
The Dog And The Horse
The Enigmas
The Envious Man
The Fisherman
The Funeral Pile
The Generous
The Hermit
The Horla Or Modern Ghosts
The Invisible Eye
The Minister
The Miracle Of Zobeide
The Nail
The Necklace
The Nose
The Owl's Ear
The Robber
The Stone
The Supper
The Torture By Hope
The Waters Of Death
The Woman Beaten



Introduction To Zadig The Babylonian








_A work (says the author) which performs more than it promises._


Voltaire never heard of a "detective story"; and yet he wrote the first
in modern literature, so clever as to be a model for all the others
that followed.

He describes his hero Zadig thus: "His chief talent consisted in
discovering the truth,"--in making swift, yet marvelous deductions,
worthy of Sherlock Holmes or any other of the ingenious modern
"thinking machines."

But no one would be more surprised than Voltaire to behold the part
that Zadig now "performs." The amusing Babylonian, now regarded as the
aristocratic ancestor of modern story-detectives, was created as a
chief mocker in a satire on eighteenth-century manners, morals, and
metaphysics.

Voltaire breathed his dazzling brilliance into "Zadig" as he did into a
hundred other characters--for a political purpose. Their veiled and
bitter satire was to make Europe think--to sting reason into action--to
ridicule out of existence a humbugging System of special privileges. It
did, _via_ the French Revolution and the resulting upheavals. His prose
romances are the most perfect of Voltaire's manifold expressions to
this end, which mark him the most powerful literary man of the century.

But the arch-wit of his age outdid his brilliant self in "Zadig." So
surpassingly sharp and quick was this finished sleuth that his methods
far outlived his satirical mission. His razor-mind was reincarnated a
century later as the fascinator of nations--M. Dupin. And from Poe's
wizard up to Sherlock Holmes, no one of the thousand "detectives,"
drawn in a myriad scenes that thrill the world of readers, but owes his
outlines, at least, to "Zadig."

"Don't use your reason--act like your friends--respect conventionalities
--otherwise the world will absolutely refuse to let you be happy." This
sums up the theory of life that Zadig satires. His comical troubles
proceed entirely from his use of independent reason as opposed to the
customs of his times.

The satire fitted ancient Babylonia--it fitted eighteenth-century
France--and perhaps the reader of these volumes can find some points of
contact with his own surroundings.

It is still piquant, however, to remember Zadig's original _raison
d'etre_. He happened to be cast in the part of what we now know as "a
detective," merely because Voltaire had been reading stories in the
"Arabian Nights" whose heroes get out of scrapes by marvelous
deductions from simple signs. (See Vol. VI.)

Voltaire must have grinned at the delicious human interest, the subtle
irony to pierce complacent humbugs, that lurked behind these Oriental
situations. He made the most of his chance for a quaint parable,
applicable to the courts, the church and science of Europe. As the
story runs on, midst many and sudden adventures, the Babylonian reads
causes from events in guileless fashion, enthusiastic as Sherlock
Holmes, and no less efficient--and all the while, behind this innocent
mask, Voltaire is insinuating a comparison between the practical
results of Zadig's common sense and the futile mental cobwebs spun by
the alleged thought of the time.

Especially did "Zadig" caricature orthodox science, and the metaphysicians,
whose solemn searches after final causes, after the reality behind the
appearance of things, mostly wandered into hopeless tangles, and thus
formed a great weapon of political oppression, by postponing the age
of reason and independent thought. Zadig "did not employ himself in
calculating how many inches of water flow in a second of time under the
arches of a bridge, or whether there fell a cube line of rain in the
month of the Mouse more than in the month of the Sheep. He never
dreamed of making silk of cobwebs, or porcelain of broken bottles; but
he chiefly studied the properties of plants and animals; and soon
acquired a sagacity that made him _discover a thousand differences
where other men see nothing but uniformity_."





Next: The Blind Of One Eye

Previous: The Conscript



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