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.”


Popular posts from this blog

Man-Eaters of Kumaon - Jim Corbett

Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 5/5

This one is decidedly a classic, so there is little point in reviewing this book. It is a beautiful one, without doubt. 
Personally, I avoid any form of entertainment (books, movies, plays, anything) which features cruelty - either directly or tacitly - towards animals (I have not yet seen any of the Planet of the Apes movies, Ant Man was uncomfortable too). So deciding to read this book took a certain degree of convincing. 
Much credit goes to the beautiful cover of the book. This one is an Aleph Classics (co-founded by David Davidar of The House of Blue Mangoes fame, and Rupa Publication) edition. In terms of sheer elegance, the cover design is unmatched.

The palette concept of jungle green coupled with the late afternoon sun creates an ambiance even before you delve into the pages. I picked out the book from a thin pile on a shelf in the little HigginBothams book-store near Charing Cross in Ooty, one biting winter evening (more on that later), such w…

Higginbothams of Ooty

It took us some time to decipher that the name of the crossroad was Charing Cross. After all, it is an unexpected name for an Indian crossroad in Tamil Nadu, and the mildly opinionated chap driving us to our hotel had a heavy accent. Charing Cross turned out to be a triangular enclosure, with an imposing fountain (we later discovered that it was named the Adam's Fountain; it is three-tiered, the second one topped by four very colourful cherubs). Since we had arrived in the middle of the afternoon in the thick of winter, the roads were thronging with people and vehicles. Shops were bustling and business appeared brisk. Our driver skilfully negotiated the traffic as we passed woollens shops, gift houses, eateries, groceries and mobile-phone shops. 
We returned to the market later in the evening, after having deposited our luggage. Both my husband and I had been fending off a nasty bout of flu and needed to restock our now near-empty medicine pouch. Charing Cross in the evening (thi…

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…