VOLTAIRE! VOLTAIRE! by Guy Endore

VOLTAIRE! VOLTAIRE!

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A tour de force- this dual-biographical study, mistermed ""a novel""- explores the strange lifelong struggle between Voltaire and Rousseau. The success of King of Paris, this author's surging fictional biography of Dumas, Pere et Fils, rested more on the fact that their lives were as adventurous as their novels, rather than on the difficult, explosive stream of consciousness style of the writing. When this style is applied to two philosophers, each a radical in his own way, both exerting on Europe of the 18th century as influence beyond understanding, the end result challenges the cultural contribution of the reader to the reading that inevitably limits the popularity. There may well be an intellectual snob appeal that will catapult this to a measure of success. But the honest reader will acknowledge that the first half is a pretty stiff challenge to sustained attention. The focus here is more on Rousseau, whose posthumous Confessions reveal the depth of his agonies, his long-suppressed feelings. Endore- while rarely using direct quotations- has absorbed to the marrow the voluminous writings by and about both men, and the obsession of Rousseau for gaining the attention of Voltaire becomes a strange aberration, controlling his every move. Voltaire, on the other hand, was devious enough, but his life was revealed for all to see. The anecdotes about him- in his relations to Frederick, to his confreres, to his women, to his critics enliven the second part of the book, and make for better reading. But at the end- what have you? An awareness, vital and highly colored, of both men, a sense that both were influential in their times -- that they were inseparable in their interaction, but never at one -- and that their dual-biography is an exercise in scholarship rather than a contribution to literature.

Pub Date: June 19th, 1961
Publisher: Simon & Schuster