A Book Review

‘What, of all things in the world, is the longest and the shortest, the swiftest and the slowest, the most divisible and the most extended, the most neglected and the most regretted, without which nothing can be done, which devours all that is little, and enlivens all that is great?’

‘What is the thing we receive without thanks, which we enjoy without knowing how, which we give to others when we know not where we are, and which we lose without perceiving it?’

One day last year I was searching for motivation, as so typical of the day; I googled it. Into the search bar I typed motivational quotes, I clicked on images and then flicked through, and saving any that caught my eye. Whilst I found hundreds, one in particular stuck out. It read as follows: Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game (Voltaire). It resonated with me to such a fundamental extent that to this day it has remained as the lock page on my iPod Touch. Many will laugh, others will grimace upon hearing those actions, but it has served as a constant reminder that it’s down to me: I can’t rely on others to do my work for me. That was the first time I had read the name: Voltaire. And acting in true ignorant fashion, I googled him, maybe once.

A few months back, however, his name came up again. I was talking to a friend of mine, who mentioned that she had read a book by Voltaire called Zadig. I barely knew anything about him, his beliefs or his works, and had not even heard of the book, so my friend kindly gave a brief outline of the story, and I decided to give it a shot, as she had enjoyed it. In the last month, I’ve read it twice.

I’ve since learned that Voltaire was a philosopher in the 17th and 18th century, who wrote novels and philosophical essays, criticism and historical narrative as well as epic, lyric and dramatic poetry. (Although I am yet to know what some of them actually are!) Zadig can be described as a quick-witted parable and is set around Babylon in the 837 century C.E. In his works, especially Zadig, Voltaire tries to express his ideas and beliefs of the meaning of life, and such like. He eventually sees the good in the world, regardless of the rough journey that led him there.

I am not an English student, nor have I ever studied this book, so I cannot easily provide you with much in-depth analysis. However, some books exist, which are written in such a way, that it enables each reader to pick up on an aspect another might not have. I believe Zadig to be one of these books. I shall not attempt to explain its narrative or what can specifically be learned from it, but I will recommend, as I myself was, that you read it.

Zadig is easily readable in a day or two, and there are so many lessons that can be learned from it. At the end, Zadig learns a lesson from the Divine, and lives out his life in an enlightened state of mind. I suspect that Voltaire hopes this novel to have similar effect on its readers.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to check out the rest of the blog!


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