A C Grayling

The Ambassador of Utopia

Voltaire Almighty: A Life in Pursuit of Freedom


Bloomsbury 447pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

In the summer of 1739 Voltaire and his extraordinary and brilliant mistress, Emilie du Châtelet, made a brief sojourn in Brussels. While there Voltaire styled himself ‘the Ambassador of Utopia’ on his invitation cards, and found to his amusement that hardly anyone got the joke – they did not know what ‘Utopia’ meant or where it was. Yet in the light of Voltaire’s lifelong utopian quest for freedom – of thought, of conscience, of expression, of love, of the individual, of nations, of mankind at large – the title he adopted in jest surely applies in earnest.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Why did the 'bold and determined' Empress Matilda never manage to become Queen regnant? Peter Marshall reviews a n… ,
    • From the Archive: Martyn Bedford on Ian McEwan's 'Atonement' ,
    • In 'Silenced Voices' reports the ongoing story of the human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been… ,
    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,