An anti-statist for all time.
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It was here that he experienced a creative burst, writing another tragedy for the theater, a series of poems, and publishing Candide. He said later that Geneva pleased him because “the language is French but the thinking is English.” He moved across the border in 1759 after strains with Geneva’s administrators, ending his days Ferney, France, now renamed “Ferney Voltaire” in his honor.
To be sure, Voltaire has always had his detractors, but in today’s open society his anti-clerical polemics cause less distress. Nevertheless, his ridiculing of French national heroine Joan of Arc has kept a debate going in France about his influence for good or evil. “Voltaire divides, but Joan unites,” wrote Jean-Marie Goulemot and Eric Walter in a widely read essay in 1997.
And in the modern Anglo-Saxon world, some right-leaning academics have written recently of Voltaire as the embodiment of the liberal consensus they oppose. Voltaire — the arch libertarian — would be amused at the redefinition of labels.
Mme. Mervaud told me she sees Voltaire’s thought as eternally relevant. His principal lesson, she says, is “Dare to think for yourself, outside of conformity and orthodoxy.” In effect, she added, “Voltaire teaches us we are born with this ability and it would be a shame not to use it.”
The libertarians of today would approve.