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The best works by Voltaire

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Join us as we explore the best works by Voltaire to learn why these satirical, historical, and philosophical books made a lasting impact on literature.

The best works by Voltaire

Classics are a part of cultural heritage passed down from generation to generation. Although classics reflect the social and political context of the past, they explore enduring themes that continue to inspire and influence writing today.

One crucial figure is Voltaire, a French philosopher, author, playwright, and creator of many works whose literary impact can't be overstated.

Let's look at three of Voltaire's best works and some insightful books written about this influential writer.

Who was Voltaire?

Voltaire was the pen name of Francois-Marie Arouet, a French author and philosopher. He received a classical education at the Jesuit college of Louis-le-Grand in Paris, where he demonstrated considerable talent for writing.

Voltaire is considered one of the greatest French writers. He lived during the Enlightenment and acted as a courageous crusader against cruelty, bigotry, and tyranny. Voltaire was a prolific writer, penning works in many literary forms, including novels, plays, poems, polemics, and essays.

His 1759 novel Candide is considered a classic of Western literature. In 1927, Candide was included in The Complete Romances of Voltaire, published in New York.

Other notable Voltaire works include:

  • La Henriade (1723), an epic poem celebrating Henry IV of France
  • Letters Concerning the English Nation (1733), a series of essays on Voltaire's experience living in England
  • Lettres Philosophiques (1734), a collection of letters criticizing the French government and the Catholic Church
  • Elements of the Philosophy of Newton (1738), a work popularizing Newton's theories
  • Zadig (1747), a novella disputing the philosophical optimism of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Alexander Pope
  • Siècle de Louis XIV (1751), a historical work on the reign of King Louis XIV
  • Micromégas (1752), a satirical novella dealing with the nature of humanity
  • History of the Russian Empire Under Peter the Great (1759), a historical work on the reign of the Russian monarch
  • A Treatise on Tolerance (1763), a work targeting religious fanaticism
  • Dictionnaire Philosophique (1764), a philosophical dictionary with Voltaire's views on various topics
  • The Philosophy of History (1765), an essay on how different worldviews shape history
  • The Ignorant Philosopher (1766), a work exploring what we know about the world
  • The Princess of Babylon (1768), a novella about the titular character

Today, you can read all of Voltaire's books together thanks to the Voltaire Foundation and its edition of Complete Works of Voltaire (Œuvres complètes de Voltaire) edited by Nicholas Cronk.

Voltaire had an exciting life that took him to several notable places, including the no-longer-existing state of Prussia, where he served as a member of the court of Frederick the Great.

He spent 15 years at the Château de Cirey with his lover Madame du Châtelet, after narrowly escaping going back to the Bastille prison. Voltaire spent his last years in the Swiss town of Ferney, now called Ferney-Voltaire.

Three great works of Voltaire

Filled with satire and wit, his works criticized organized religion and advocated for freedom of religion, separation of the church and state, and freedom of speech. Here are three of Voltaire's greatest works, all written in French.

Candide

Candide is a very good and gentle man who believes that he lives in "the best of all possible worlds" despite being continuously let down in life. His faith will be tested once he takes off on a journey around the world.

Zadig

Zadig is a kind-hearted man who turns to science after being disillusioned with women. However, this move sets off a chain of events that lead him on a wild adventure to Egypt and back.

L'Ingénu

The young Huron, a child of nature, arrives at Saint-Malo in Brittany, where he gets baptized, becoming Hercules de Kerkabon. In this city, he fights against the English, falls in love, and eventually ends up in prison.

Three interesting books about Voltaire

Here are some books you can read to learn more about Voltaire.

Voltaire Almighty by Roger Pearson

Voltaire Almighty is a compelling biography chronicling the author's turbulent life, including his time in prison, long-term affairs, exile, and tireless battles against his critics.

The Age of Voltaire by Will Durant

The Age of Voltaire is a masterful work diving deep into the French Enlightenment period, including the English ideas that inspired this period, the salons of Paris where great thinkers gathered to exchange ideas, and Voltaire himself.

Reinventing Voltaire by Stephen Bird

Reinventing Voltaire examines the evolution of Voltaire's legacy. It also seeks to discover how the 19th century reinvented this genius writer and philosopher, by both vilifying and venerating him.

Discover Voltaire's works and books about Voltaire on Speechify Audiobooks

If you want to listen to books about Voltaire, try Speechify. This audiobook service offers an excellent selection of works written by and about the author, allowing you to learn more about his fascinating life and recognizable writing style.

Best of all, you'll receive one of these exciting audiobooks for free by downloading Speechify today.

Give Speechify a try and discover an impressive library of audiobooks that only gets bigger.

FAQ

What is Voltaire's masterpiece?

The 1759 satirical novel Candide is Voltaire's masterpiece. The novel is also considered an eighteenth-century masterpiece.

What are the three main ideas that Voltaire is most famous for?

The three main ideas that Voltaire is most famous for are the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and the separation of the state and church.

What is Voltaire's most famous quote?

Voltaire's most famous quote is: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

What was Voltaire's biggest contribution to the Enlightenment?

Voltaire's biggest contribution to the Enlightenment was his advocacy for common sense and religious tolerance.

What did Voltaire think about religion?

Voltaire was vehemently opposed to organized religion and advocated for religious tolerance.

What is the most famous work by Voltaire?

Lettres Philosophiques, a 1734 series of essays, and Candide, a 1759 satirical novel, are the best-known works of Voltaire.

What did Voltaire contribute to the French language?

Voltaire popularized the use of irony, humor, and satire in the French language.

Who was Voltaire's intellectual rival?

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a Swiss writer, was Voltaire's intellectual rival. Although many thought of them as the fathers of the French Revolution and comrades, Voltaire and Rousseau were, in fact, enemies.

What are the two main themes of Candide?

The two main themes in Candide are the absurdity of optimism and social criticism.

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.