Read Rameau’s Nephew and First Satire by Denis Diderot Online


In his brilliant and witty dialogue, Denis Diderot invents a chance encounter in a Paris cafe between two acquaintances. Their talk ranges broadly across art, music, education, and the contemporary scene, as the nephew of composer Rameau, amoral and bohemian, alternately shocks and amuses the moral, bourgeois figure of his interlocutor. Exuberant and highly entertaining, tIn his brilliant and witty dialogue, Denis Diderot invents a chance encounter in a Paris cafe between two acquaintances. Their talk ranges broadly across art, music, education, and the contemporary scene, as the nephew of composer Rameau, amoral and bohemian, alternately shocks and amuses the moral, bourgeois figure of his interlocutor. Exuberant and highly entertaining, the dialogue exposes the corruption of society in Diderot's characteristic philosophical exploration. The debates of the French Enlightenment speak to us vividly in this sparkling new translation, which also includes the only English translation of First Satire, a related work that provides the context for Rameau's Nephew, Diderot's 'second satire.' Edited by distinguished translator Margaret Mauldon, with lively introduction and notes by Nicholas Cronk, the edition includes, for the first time in English, extracts from Goethe's commentary on this seminal Enlightenment work. It will prove a valuable addition to the library to any lover of French literature."...

Title : Rameau’s Nephew and First Satire
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780192805911
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 139 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Rameau’s Nephew and First Satire Reviews

  • MJ Nicholls
    2019-02-26 02:50

    Some editions lump this with D’Alembert’s Dream, others with “other works”—helpful!—but this Oxford Classics edition includes First Satire (some eleven pages). As the one-star rating makes plain, me no likey. Rameau’s Nephew is a rambling conversation between ‘ME’ and ‘HIM’ that feels like an indulgence, written very much for Diderot’s cultural circle, and a very dry run for Jacques the Fatalist. The bantering leans towards the philosophical, and far from being a philistine, I don’t read philosophical tracts because I hate them. The First Satire is equally irrelevant to today’s reader, punctuated with obscure references to figures of the time, copious explanatory notes and flat humour. More to the point, there’s no Diderot magic here, not in the slightest.

  • Justin Evans
    2019-03-10 00:49

    Why would someone like Diderot, who could presumably have published a record of his own bowel movements and had at least a few people read all about it, decide not to publish a fairly amusing, often insightful text like RN, that clearly required a lot of work? One reason might be that it's kind of a mess, which is fitting, since the Nephew himself is kind of a mess, but the other reviews on goodreads suggest that it doesn't add much to the reading experience. Or, maybe Diderot was a bit worried about the fairly unpleasant satire of living people in his work and decided, as a good Horatian would, that it was best to restrict his satire to general types or historical figures. So this languished in the desk drawer. Or because this was written as a response to Palissot's 'Les Philosophes,' which the internet suggests was a French 18th century version of Aristophanes' 'Clouds' only not much good... and in that case, why publish this and publicize this play that attacks you? But I don't think either of these really explains it. I think Diderot refrained from publishing because the Nephew does a bit too well in conversation with the dialogue's quasi-stoic, rationalist, enlightenment narrator. The Nephew is a wonderfully self-satirizing creation, who sees through the silliness of polite society while also participating in it; the narrator says things like "there's one person who's exempt from playing a part in the [social] pantomime. I mean the philosopher," whom he alternately identifies with or holds up as an ideal. But by the time he says this, the Nephew has already pointed out the similarities between the ideal philosopher and the impoverished masses, all of whom have to sit waiting for drops from the tables of the rich. And he's already broken down the philosophical appeal to 'nature' as opposed to society by pointing out that though there *are* people who "don't value riches as the most precious thing on earth," "people aren't born like that. They become like that, for it isn't to be found in nature." And if that's true, the only way one can become a philosopher is to be highly educated, that is... completely socialized out of nature. At this point the narrator refuses to continue the conversation, and asks the Nephew to talk a bit more about music--a discussion which at this time in France was, unfortunately for him, also about the contrast between 'nature' and 'artifice.' In other words, in this dialogue Diderot uncovers all the gaps and mistakes in the 'natural' ideals of the enlightenment, and would be forced to conclude that enlightenment itself is a construct that might not have any necessary legitimating foundations. And therefore Hegel loves this piece. But I suspect that Diderot was unwilling to go down that particular road, and only the 19th century would give us reasons for allegiance to enlightenment values that weren't based on nature or God. In short, this was utterly fascinating. On the other hand, this translation was utterly dull. I compared a bit with the French, and even with my graduate student French-for-reading level of comprehension I could tell that Mauldon fails completely to give her readers any sense of Diderot's charming style. At one point her Nephew complains that he's "a damnably absurd kind of style, half high-class and literary, half from the gutter." You wouldn't know it from this; he sounds like he speaks translationese. Diderot's Nephew, on the other hand, has "un diable de ramage saugrenu, moitie de gens du monde et des lettres, moitie de la Halle," if you'll excuse my lack of accents. So there's room for a new translation, and anyone interested in the project of enlightenment should take this text to heart enough that they want to translate parts of it, at least.

  • Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
    2019-02-21 01:35

    Before I became a regular here at I used to while away my internet hours at There, we discussed, watched and analyzed great chess games, some of them even while being played live in different parts of the world. But as in other social sites conversations among kibitzers were inevitable. And this was where the arresting beauty of chess was, to me, somehow neutralized: when the chess players began to talk (electronically).I had thought this is a new phenomenon in this age of internet chess but I was mistaken. I had realized that in the mid-eighteenth-century in Paris, France, cafes abounded where people also played chess and talked.The setting of this book is one such cafe. It is actually one long conversation between "ME" (presumably the author) and "HIM" (Rameau"s nephew. Rameau is supposed to be a famous musician; the nephew is an eccentric scoundrel, a vagabond whose "concepts of honour and dishonour are strangely jumbled in his head, for he makes no parade of the good qualities which nature has given him, and, for the bad, evinces no shame"). The conversation happened one evening amidst chess games being played. The book reminded me of because it began this way:"RAIN or shine, it's my habit, about five of an evening, to go for a stroll in the Palais-Royal. It's me you see there, invariably alone, sitting on the d'Argenson bench, musing. I converse with myself about politics, love, taste, or philosophy. I give my mind licence to wander wherever it fancies. I leave it completely free to pursue the first wise or foolish idea that it encounters, just as, on the Allee de Foy, you see our young rakes pursuing a flighty, smiling, sharp-eyed, snub-nosed little tart, abandoning this one to follow that one, trying them all but not settling on any. In my case, my thoughts are my little flirts. If the weather's too cold, or too wet, I take refuge in the Cafe de la Regence, where I pass the time watching the games of chess. Of all the cities in the world, it's Paris, and of all the places in Paris, it's the Cafe de la Regence, where chess is played best. Rey's cafe is the arena where the astute Legal, the subtle Philidor, the dependable Mayot mount their attacks; it's there you witness the most astonishing moves and that you hear the most stupid conversation; for if one may be both a wit and a fine chess player like Legal, one may also be a fine chess player and an idiot like Foubert and Mayot...." is also where you can witness the most astonishing chess moves and hear the most stupid conversation.Anyway, it was while watching the chess games at Cafe de la Regence that "HIM" accosted "ME" for a talk, the former jestingly addressing the latter as the "Master Philosopher". "ME" obliges "HIM" because even if he holds people like "HIM" in low esteem, once in a while "ME"--"like(s) to stop and spend time with them, because their character contrasts sharply with other men's, and they break with that tedious uniformity which our education, our social conventions, and our customary proprieties have produced."So they conversed, talking about almost all topics concerning man and the human condition and, if you would not be vexed by the need to consult the footnotes located somewhere near the end of the book which explain people and events during those times referred to by "ME" and "HIM" during their talk, you would actually enjoy quotable quotes from this rascal "HIM" like : "Vice itself is only intermittently shocking. The appearance of vice is shocking at all times. Perhaps it would be better to be an arrogant fellow than to look like one; the man with an arrogant character offends only from time to time; the man with the arrogant face offends all the time."Towards the end, however, "ME" would have a much kinder perception of "HIM". He ("ME") said:"There was, in what he ("HIM") was saying, much that we all think, and by which we guide our behaviour, but do not actually say. In truth, this was the most striking difference between my man and the majority of other people. He admitted to the vices that he, in common with others, had; but he was not a hypocrite. He was neither more nor less odious than they were, he was simply franker, more consistent, and occasionally profound in his depravity."

  • Mike
    2019-03-06 04:48

    3.5 stars. Rameau’s Nephew is a scathing satirical exposé of a “great man” -- reminding me of Fielding’s Jonathan Wild, an earlier ironic celebration of a “great man” whose criminality was a political shot at Robert Walpole. Diderot’s treatment of such a man takes the form of a dialogue between a fictionalized version of himself and the title character, who might or might not be Diderot’s dark doppelgänger. I read a few different scholarly introductions to get a better feel for Diderot’s work, and all of them mentioned the unanswered questions that define not only its publication but also its various interpretations. I’d like to think that Diderot was using a dialogue with his own personal Shadow side as a critique of larger societal issues, including those that he was struggling against in attempts to publish his work in the face of censorship. Rameau’s nephew (or “HIM,” as the text has it) is the side of us that does allow for true greatness (in moderation), but at the same time dooms us to a hubristic downfall if left to run amok, which is so often the case. He is a kind of necessary fool that we all have within us. The difficulty is trying to find a balance so as not to let HIM run roughshod over our lives. In that sense, he is an “educator” (although not in the sense HE understands the term!) in that we can learn from him, in part, by avoiding his own personal pitfalls, which are really just mirrored magnifications of our own personal and societal foibles.

  • Jackson Cyril
    2019-03-01 04:50

    Goethe, after translating this into German, admitted that he had no idea what this was about, only that it challenged our preconceptions and accepted values to their core. His judgement still stands. Anyone who claims to understand this book needs to read it again; its dialogue sprawls over every imaginable topic, always challenging ideas, prodding them, sometimes accepting them but quickly jumping to the next one, lest we dwell too much on one idea and miss out on the feast before us.

  • Pedro Forquesato
    2019-02-27 07:50

    Sinceramente, não lembro o porquê de ter comprado esse livro. Acho que estava pesquisando o Iluminismo, e me interessei por Diderot, que foi figura importante no movimento, ainda que não tenha escrito muito (fora sua participação na Enciclopédia). O Sobrinho de Rameau é sua obra mais conhecida. O livro é interessante; sua discussão crítica sobre a ética foi de certa forma revolucionária na época, embora hoje em dia certamente não chocaria ninguém. Há partes interessantes, mas que infelizmente se vêem soterradas numa montanha de comentários maldosos e fofocas sobre desafetos do autor, o que torna a leitura um pouco maçante. No geral, não me arrependo da leitura; gostei do livro, mas recomendo apenas a quem tem interesse histórico no movimento iluminista.

  • Rahul
    2019-03-16 07:52

    Book deals with subjects of great intellectual profundity and at the same time, too paltry to be written in a book. Though, book could to some readers such as myself, appear quite complex in structure and subjectivity due to no resemblance whatsoever in nativity, culture, interests, time period of what book seems to depict, but is worth a read after all. It was written in periods, when ample stress for entertainment, patronization, nationalism was laid on delicate fine arts, such as music, art, and literature. The basic aim, however was tough for me to understand mainly due to it's too disintegrated and momentary discussions on one topic followed by completely another subject, the next moment.Plot is two friends sharing their experiences and understanding on varied subjects in succession from one question to another. Their discussion is quite informal, leaving intricacies and complexities in reader's mind.

  • Philip Lane
    2019-02-22 23:47

    Not really my cup of tea. A dialogue between two French men which seemed mostly about what it takes to be a good musician. Loads of references to artists and performers who I was not familiar with. Felt very dated. One or two pithy comments but hardly a weighty tome in ny view.

  • dameolga
    2019-02-27 00:00

    I read Rameau's Nephew in around six hours, and I could only do so because it was less of a philosophical feeling book than one of interesting, amusing, and insightful observations. This book is probably one of the more entertaining books I had to read for my Enlightenment and Critics class.

  • Nikolay Nikiforov
    2019-02-24 05:39

    Оказывается, "достоевщина" была изобретена не Достоевским, а совсем другим автором, и на сто лет раньше. Разговоры про особенности французской оперы 18-го века сегодня вряд ли кому-либо могут быть понятны, но в остальном чтение увлекательное.

  • Daniel
    2019-03-10 23:33

    Great book, I highly recommend the read.

  • Lee
    2019-03-15 05:42

    Read most of this. Started fiery-like but fizzled for me thanks maybe in part to holiday distractions.