This is Not a Story and Other Stories

Denis Diderot, Author, Dennis Diderot, Author, P. N. Furbank, Translator University of Missouri Press $27.5 (166p) ISBN 978-0-8262-0815-6
After reading the encyclopedist's collected stories, one only wonders why the French Revolution didn't happen earlier. Written between 1770 and 1772, these five stories reveal strains in prevailing attitudes toward religion, law and society. The first three works--``This Is Not a Story,'' ``On the Inconsistency of Public Opinion'' and ``Supplement to Bougainville's Voyage ''--form a trilogy in which two interlocutors recount examples of the destructiveness of the monogamy and jealousy of ``civilized'' sexual mores, contrasting them to the healthier erotic dealings of that favorite French model for the ``natural man,'' the Tahitian. In ``The Two Friends from Bourbonne'' and ``Conversation of a Father with His Children,'' Diderot pits sens commun , often portrayed as casuistry, against the more natural sens propre . Furbank, currently working on a biography of Diderot, has written a succinct and informative introduction in which he positions Diderot (1713-1784) as an heir to both the French philosophes and the English novelists Richardson and Sterne (whom Diderot read in the original) and as a forebear of Goethe and Schiller. Like the stories, it offers a view from the crossroads of one of the most fertile periods in Western culture. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 12/02/1991
Release date: 12/01/1991
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Paperback - 176 pages - 978-0-19-282958-0
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