Skip to main content

Alphabet of Wit by Voltaire



This was a hit. I have earned a reputation in my family that I pick up the most ancient and abstruse work available (Dante’s Inferno for instance, or Silas Marner). Unsurprisingly for me – and surprisingly for those who haven’t read anything about or by Voltaire or Dante – their work is far more liberating than most present day writings. And they managed in far fewer pages too. Alphabet of Wit is 62 pages long – blank pages included. It is a collection of very short essays by Voltaire on various topics ranging from Adam to Zeal, and oh, the topics are listed alphabetically. Voltaire’s outlook is refreshingly practical, considering his generation. Even considering our own, actually.

Also, his sense of wry humour – at first a bit stodgy – is very appealing, once you get used to it. Since the essays are short, it is easy to stick it out for pages and get acquainted to his style of writing. Though admittedly, it is a short book and it is hard to say if the style could have survived an entire novella-length. And besides, I did face a bit of a trouble reading it on the bus while on my way to work – there were consecutive pieces on Impotence, Incubi and Kissing (the page between Incubi and Kissing was separated by a paragraph on Justice).

You can’t go about the booklet, looking for entertainment or too much of insight. You just get to know a bit of how Voltaire was (he was pretty cool, it turns out) and take away a few meaningful learnings such as…

“The most moderate, the least worrisome, the most keenly perceptive is the most happy; but unfortunately the most keenly perceptive is often the least moderate. It is not our position, but our disposition which renders us happy. Our disposition depends upon the functioning of our organs, over which we have no control.”

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Top 10 books to read when you are depressed

Books are handy weapons to stave off blues - be it the dregs of the Sunday evening or a nasty bout of flu. When you are depressed, it takes herculean efforts to shake off the feeling. And I'm not even talking about the more severe, clinical form of depression. I can't get myself to pour myself a glass of water the day after Diwali; on Fridays on the other hand, I am the epitome of eternal sunshine. For such moody, dull days, these top 10 books are the surest way to dust a little sparkle in your life.
1) Three Men In A Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog): This is Jerome K. Jerome at his absolute best. It was published some 130 years back and is still capable of eliciting raucous laughter. It is the honest journal of three young, bumbling flatmates and their dog on a river cruise. Look out for some meandering, pedantic pages, but they offer some relief from the relentless humour. 
2) James Herriot'sDog Stories: If you love animals (and dogs, in particular), this is the ultimate…

List#1 The Top Ten Authors I've Read The Most Books From

So I stumbled across this blog The Broke and the Bookish quite by chance (actually I was going through another brilliant blog Fourth Street Review, which led me to TBB). They have an interesting section for Top Tens, and this time it was The Top Ten Authors I've Read The Most Books From. I'm not sure if I can name ten, but let's see here...



Alistair MacLean: Give me a warm-hearted, yet cold-demeanoured, taciturn, multifaceted gentleman, who is also a juggler with words, and a plot set in a crippled ship in hostile waters or a ice-floe or on ragged mountains, and the only other thing I'll ask for is a cup of tea to read it with.

James Herriot: I love animals. Enough said. No, but really, Herriot is the reason I took Library as my preferred choice of 'activity' at school.

John le Carre: God, its depressing to read a le Carre. But its right up there with MacLean. There's something hypnotic about his work and there have been phases when I've read nothing but …

I am currently reading...

The Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. This is proving to be a very empowering read, which I believe was the whole point of the book anyway. For those judge a book by its cover (which is also pretty badass), it really doesn't seem to even skirt the edges of feminism. At its crudest, it is a collection of stories and their analyses to help rediscover what it means to be a woman. If it sounds redundant, then it goes to show howo much we need this book. 
I must say, books of this kind are not up my alley. It feels too verbose (even by my standards) and the bluntness induced by my utter worldly view of things makes it really difficult for me to penetrate the exuberance of being a woman, as noted in the book. I am just three chapters down, so it wouldn't possibly be wise to quote a favourite right now, but La Loba seems very ethereal. The whole concept of some force (our own, presumably) that can join broken, littered pieces, is deeply appealing. 
Newspapers a…