One of Voltaire's earliest tales, Zadig is set in the exotic East and is told in the comic spirit of Candide; L'Ingenu, written after Candide, is a darker tale in which an American Indian records his impressions of France
A new translation of Voltaire's Treatise on Toleration, one of the most important essays on religious tolerance and freedom of thought A powerful, impassioned case for the values of freedom of conscience and religious tolerance, Treatise on Toleration was written after the Toulouse merchant Jean Calas was falsely accused of murdering his son and executed on the wheel in 1762. As it became clear that Calas had been persecuted by 'an irrational mob' for being a Protestant, the Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire began a campaign to vindicate him and his family. The resulting work, a screed against fanaticism and a plea for understanding, is as fresh and urgent today as when it was written.
Also known as the Lettres anglaises ou philosophiques, Voltaire's response to his exile in England offered the French public of 1734 a panoramic view of British culture. Perceiving them as a veiled attack against the ancien regime, however, the French government ordered the letters burned and Voltaire persecuted.
Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary, first published in 1764, is a series of short, radical essays - alphabetically arranged - that form a brilliant and bitter analysis of the social and religious conventions that then dominated eighteenth-century French thought. One of the masterpieces of the Enlightenment, this enormously influential work of sardonic wit - more a collection of essays arranged alphabetically, than a conventional dictionary - considers such diverse subjects as Abraham and Atheism, Faith and Freedom of Thought, Miracles and Moses. Repeatedly condemned by civil and religious authorities, Voltaire's work argues passionately for the cause of reason and justice, and criticizes Christian theology and contemporary attitudes towards war and society - and claims, as he regards the world around him: 'common sense is not so common'.
Something between a tale and a polemic, these "fables of reason" are feats of narrative compression and contain much of Voltaire's best and funniest writing. From ribald tales of adultery to conversations between cosmic travellers, the stories in this collection pose moral, philosophical and social questions. Reader and protagonist alike find their assumptions challenged as Voltaire mingles rationality and fantasy.