Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot—of the triumvirate that dominated French letters in the eighteenth century, Diderot was unmatched in the sheer breadth and depth of his interests and ideas. Rameau’s Nephew and D’Alembert’s Dream are dazzling exposés of Diderot’s radical scientific and philosophical thinking. Written in dialogue form, they were too outspoken to be published during the lifetime of one whose ideas earned him enemies as fast as they stimulated new criteria for social progress. Of the two pieces, Rameau’s Nephew was composed over many years, and in form and content it is an explosive cocktail unlike anything in French literature before or since. D’Alembert’s Dream, on the other hand, was committed to paper in a matter of days; a clarion call for the cause of materialist determinism, it too shows Diderot as one of the most advanced thinkers of his age and is a powerful testament to the bizarre and unpredictable genius of its creator.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is probably Diderot's most widely read work in English translation. There is good reason for it. Rather than strict philosophical treatises, Rameau's Nephew and D'Alembert's Dream are a series of comic dilogues which serve as vehicles to attack conventional 18th century social mores and theology. In the first book, Rameau, who is an actual historical figure, the nephew of the famed composer, runs into the narrator (Diderot) in a parisian cafe where games of chess are going on around them. Rameau is one of the great comic creations of 18th century French literature. He is a cross between Lear's fool and Dostoevsky's Underground Man. Like the fool, he gets away (until recently) with saying outrageous things to his benefactor's faces, because they tend to regard him as a buffoon. Like the underground man, he is constantly vacillating in terms of his self-image. For the most part he excoriates himself and even seems to revel in the fact that he has brought his misery upon...
This was very challenging, having a little bit of ADHD did not help. I never got the point, I think it's just over my head.
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