Posts Tagged ‘Voltaire’
March 13, 2015 | by Ken Armstrong
A gruesome legal case turned Voltaire into a crusader for the innocent.
This article was reported and written by Ken Armstrong for The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that covers the U.S. criminal-justice system.
On the night of October 13, 1761, cries rang from the shop of Jean Calas, a cloth merchant who lived and worked in the commercial heart of Toulouse, in the South of France. The eldest of Calas’s six children, Marc-Antoine, a moody, handsome man who was fond of billiards and gambling, had just been found dead. The family said he had been murdered—perhaps stuck with a sword by someone who slipped into the darkened boutique from the cobblestone street.
A crowd gathered outside the front door as investigators were summoned. A doctor and two surgeons, called to examine the body, found only a “livid mark on the neck.” They signed a report refuting the family’s account of some intruder with a blade, concluding that Marc-Antoine, twenty-nine, had been “hanged whilst alive, by himself or by others.”
Those last five words, “by himself or by others,” began an enduring mystery and a true cause célèbre, one that might have been the “crime of the century” for the 1700s had the cliché been in use back then. Voltaire, the philosopher, dramatist and propagandist—“the greatest amuser of his age” and the greatest polemicist—became obsessed with the case, and for years worked to eradicate what he considered to be a stain on his country, church, and courts.
Finally, a panel of forty judges sat in Paris to hear the case against Calas once again. The verdict they issued, 250 years ago this week, “echoed and re-echoed” in Europe and beyond. Voltaire, by appealing directly to the people, helped established the power of public opinion as a tool to fight injustice. To some legal scholars, the infamous case also marked the first stirrings of the global movement to end capital punishment. Read More »
February 14, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- In Taiwan, a commemorative Valentine’s Day train ticket sold out in less than an hour: it takes you from “Dalin (大林, pronounced similarly to ‘darling’ in English) station in Chiayi County to Gueilai (歸來, literally: ‘come back’).” A journey any of us should be willing to make after we’ve behaved badly. It’s love on a real train.
- Voltaire in love: “She understands Newton, she despises superstition and in short she makes me happy.”
- But we can count on literature to remind us that things are not always so sweet. Here are the ten unhappiest marriages in fiction.
- Can atrocity be the subject matter of poetry? Our poetry editor, Robyn Creswell, on Carolyn Forché’s new anthology.
- “I also like to catch dangling modifiers, because we all miss those … I have had authors who say that dangling modifiers are part of their style and don’t want to change them.” An interview with a crackerjack copyeditor.
June 26, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
- Flavorwire has outdone itself with this slideshow of authors’ wedding pictures. (Yup: that’s Hemingway and Hadley.)
- R.I.P. Nook—we hardly knew ya. (Which is, I suppose, the problem.)
- Reports of Leonard Cohen’s death, on the other hand, are greatly exaggerated.
- Beginning tomorrow, the Royal Shakespeare Company will begin tweeting out playwright Mark Ravenhill’s version of Candide. If this is the best of possible worlds, what, then, are the others?
- At Bookish, an exclusive peek into a day in the life of editor Amy Einhorn.
- Jane Austen may (or may not) replace Charles Darwin on the £10 note. She is, says Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King, “quietly waiting in the wings,” presumably for a spectacular, 42nd Street–style star turn that delights creationists the world over!
June 19, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
December 31, 2012 | by Rex Weiner
On a brisk December day in 1972, the SS Statendam left New York Harbor with an extraordinary passenger list. Theoretical physicists, science fiction writers, a handful of paying passengers, a reporter from the New York Times, media personalities, and a couple of distinguished literary figures, including Norman Mailer. All were aboard for the ship’s destination, Cape Canaveral, to observe Apollo 17, the last manned rocket launch to the moon.
As the skyline receded in the distance, two individuals in black leather jackets and boots tried discreetly to mingle with the other passengers on deck. Eschewing the one thousand dollar passage and without the freebies extended to celebrity guests and credited media, they had simply strolled on board at the last minute. Once the ship cast off they became—in the legal parlance of the sea—stowaways. Stowaways with a mission to rescue Norman Mailer from the clutches of a diabolical cabal of elite space imperialists.
Advance media hype surrounding the Voyage Beyond Apollo, as it was billed, promised stellar seminars, expert panel discussions, and learned presentations by marquee names, including former astronaut Capt. Edgar Mitchell, top NASA rocketeer Wernher von Braun, sci-fi hero Arthur C. Clarke, and Mailer, whose 1970 book, Of a Fire on the Moon, qualified him as an expert on space travel. Read More »