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This is not a Story   By: (1713-1784)

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This Is Not a Story (written around 1772 published in 1798)

Original French title: Ceci n'est pas un conte

By Denis Diderot

Translation into English by Peter Phalen

Copyright (2010) by Peter Phalen This work is licensed for non commecial use under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 3.0 license.

This story is found in Grimm´s Correspondence, dated April 1773, but that version is incomplete. The history of Tanié and la Reymer is missing, as is the end of the history of Mademoiselle de La Chaux.

M. A. A. Barbier (Dictionary of the Anonymous) suggested that Diderot´s memory must have failed him when he attributed translations of "Hume´s First Essays on Metaphysics" [p. 321] and the Essays on Human Understanding [p. 328] to Mademoiselle de La Chaux. But this was certainly not the case. Diderot was only giving the works of Hume as translated by Mademoiselle de La Chaux a more general title. The Political Discourses make up the second part of the Essays. Mademoiselle de La Chaux wrote the first translation of this part (Of Commerce; Of Luxury; Of Money, Amsterdam, 1752, 1753, in 12; Paris and Lyon, in 12). It includes only seven of Hume´s seventeen discourses along with some commentary by the translator. Abbot Le Blanc and later Mauvillon did not publish their versions of the same piece until 1754. Mademoiselle de La Chaux´s translation of Hume´s Writings on Economics was included in the XVth tome of the Collections from the Leading Economists. She died in 1755.

This Is Not A Story

When one tells a story it is for a listener; and however short the story is, it is highly unlikely that the teller is not occasionally interrupted by his audience. So I have introduced into the narration that will be read, and which is not a story, or which is a bad one if you have doubts about that, a character that might approximate the role of the reader; and I begin.

And you conclude right there?

That a subject this interesting must make us dizzy, be the talk of the town for a month, be phrased and rephrased until flavorless, produce a thousand arguments, at least twenty leaflets, and around a hundred bits of verse in favor or against. In spite of all the finesse, learning, and pure grit of the author, given that his work has not lead to any violence it is mediocre. Very mediocre.

But it seems to me that we owe him a rather agreeable evening, and that this reading has brought...

What? A litany of worn out vignettes fired from left and right, saying just one single thing known for all eternity, that man and woman are extraordinarily unfortunate beasts.

Nevertheless the epidemic has won you over, and you have contributed just like any other.

Whether or not it be to one´s taste, it is only good taste to strike the tone given. When meeting company, we customarily tidy up appearances at the door of the apartment for whomever we are seeing; we pretend to be funny when we are sad; sad, when we would have liked to be funny. We do not want to appear out of place anywhere; so the literary hack politicizes, the political pundit talks metaphysics, the metaphysician moralizes, the moralist talks finance, the financier, letters or logic. Rather than listen or keep quiet, each ramble on about what they are ignorant of, and everyone bores each other with silly vanity or politeness.

You are in a bad mood.

I usually am.

And I think it is appropriate for me to reserve my vignette for a better time.

You mean you will wait for me to leave.

It is not that.

Or you are afraid that I might have less indulgence for you, face to face, than I would for your average gentleman.

It is not that.

Be agreeable then and tell me what it is.

That my vignette will not prove any better than those that have annoyed you.

Hmph. Tell it anyway.

No. You have had enough... Continue reading book >>




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