A Critical Biography

Book - 1992
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Baker & Taylor
A portrait of one of key figures of the French Enlightenment provides a incisive study of Diderot's private life, public career, and his literary and philosophical works. By the author of E. M. Forster: A Life.

Blackwell North Amer
Denis Diderot (1713-84) was one of the most dazzling and attractive figures of the French Enlightenment. Known principally as the chief editor of the Encyclopedie, the great "bible" of the age, he was an incomparable polymath - a dramatist, novelist, speculative philosopher, the founder of modern art criticism, and tireless correspondent. And his works, all of them informed by an uncannily modern sensibility, have influenced a staggering range of writers - from Goethe and Schiller to Balzac, Stendhal, Heine, Marx, Freud, and Kafka. In this masterful biography, P. N. Furbank provides a probing yet sympathetic account of Diderot's life and a brilliant analysis of his work, drawing intriguing connections between many previously disjointed notions about the man and his achievement.
The son of a cutler (though a hopeless craftsman himself), Denis Diderot rose, after an interestingly complicated youth, to become an intimate of all the eminent intellectuals of the Enlightenment. A close friend of Rousseau, Grimm, and d'Alembert, and a familiar figure in the literary salons of Paris, he also met and corresponded with David Hume, David Garrick, and Laurence Sterne. The support of yet one more remarkable acquaintance, Catherine the Great, led to what is perhaps the most amazing episode in this astonishing life; at the age of sixty, he traveled to St. Petersburg and, in debate with the Empress, drew up plans for the conversion of Russia into an ideal republic.
A deeply subversive genius, Diderot spent much of his working life under the threat of exile. Consequently his daring and inventive novels did not begin to reach the public until a decade after his death, and in the case of his inexhaustibly strange masterpiece, Rameau's Nephew, not until two decades or more. These and others of his most original compositions (also unpublished in his life) reveal aspects of Diderot virtually unknown to his contemporaries and often misunderstood today. Furbank's absorbing book meticulously draws the various strands together a it brings to life its astound subject.

& Taylor

A portrait of one of the key figures of the French Enlightenment examines Diderot's private life, public career, and literary and philosophical works

Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Alfred A. Knopf, 1992
Edition: First American edition
ISBN: 9780679414216
Branch Call Number: 848x DIDER FURBA
Characteristics: xiii, 524 pages, 12 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map, portraits ; 24 cm


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