November 11, 1694 - Paris
May 30, 1778 - Paris
Last month I read and posted on a work of great fame as well as personal importance to me, Candide by Voltaire. I first read this work in 1964, lead by a reference to it in The Lifetime Reading Plan by Clifton Fadiman. Candide was my first read of a classic and before I read Fadiman's wonderful guide I never knew there was such a thing! I reread Fadiman's section on Voltaire. In addition to Candide, he suggests Letters to the English and two works that are close to short stories in format, Zadig, which I read long ago and will reread next month and today's work Micromégas.
In a time when the world was being transformed by global exploration, stories of travels to strange lands were popular in 17th century Europe. Educated people were captiva by storied of people encountered by exploration parties, living so very differently than Europeans. Gulliver's Travels, 1726, is a famous example. Fadiman suggests Micromégas may have been inspired by that work but I don't know if Voltaire read that or just knew of it second hand.
Micromégas, just a few pages, is about a fantastically large being from another world. It is structured as a conversation between a being from Saturn and Micromegas. Voltaire knew Saturn had a ring and five then discovered moons. We learn that Micromegas will
live over a million years and is about 100,000 Kilometers tall.
He tells the academic from Saturn he has met beings that live 100 million years and have many times the 72 senses of a being from Saturn. Of course the life spans of humans are puny in comparison and we have only five senses. Underlying this is the no doubt completely unacceptable to the clerics of France notion that God created many worlds much better than Earth.
Micromégas is a fun fast read.