The Russian proverb says that one’s tongue can get one as far as Kyiv. François-marie Arouet, known to us under the pseudonym Voltaire, owes his imprisonment at the Bastille to his tongue. Toiling at the attorney office, Arouet was much more interested in literature than law. And he was not careful with his choice of words: his satirical verse mocking the Philip of Orléans, the regent under the young Louis XV, circulated widely. As Duke’s patience ran out, he “bastilled” his nemesis, to use a term from those days. But Voltaire did not spend his time in vain in Bastille: he read Homer and Vergilius and wrote himself between their lines. The result of the cell-block creativity was an epic poem, La Henriade, and the tragedy Œdipe. Eleven months later, Voltaire was released, and Œdipe was staged at Comédie Française. The Duke of Orleans did not resent the offender and even wondered whether he was comfortable writing in the Bastille. The future king of poets and philosopher of peoples thanked his highness for the trouble but asked not to provide anymore for his housing and food.
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