Short summary - Zadig; or, The Book of Fate - Voltaire, pseudonym of François-Marie Arouet

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Zadig; or, The Book of Fate
Voltaire, pseudonym of François-Marie Arouet

Dedicating his story to the Marquise de Pompadour, whom Voltaire calls the Sultana of Sheraa, the writer himself appears under the name of the poet Saadi, a classic of oriental literature. In the work, the author uses elements of the so popular in the 18th century. the genre of travel, as well as the fantasy of Persian and Arabian tales.

During the time of King Moabdar, a young man named Zadig lived in Babylon. He was noble, wise, rich, had a pleasant appearance and hoped for the favor of fate. The day had already been set for his marriage to Zemir, who was considered the first bride in all of Babylon. But Orcan, the nephew of one of the ministers, who is in love with Zemira, orders the servants to kidnap her. Zadig saves the girl, while he himself is seriously injured and, according to the doctor, he will have to go blind. Upon learning that Zemira had married Orcan, contemptuously declaring that she could not stand the blind, the poor young man fell unconscious. He was ill for a long time, but the doctor's prediction, fortunately, did not come true. Convinced of the fickleness of the girl brought up at court, Zadig decides to marry a "simple citizen". Azora is his new darling, who is destined for a funny test. Cador, a friend of Zadig, informs Azora, who was absent from the house for several days, that her husband died suddenly and bequeathed to him most of his wealth. But Cador is in severe pain, and there is only one cure - to put the nose of the deceased to the sore spot. Azora, without hesitation, takes a razor, goes to the tomb of her husband and finds him there in good health. Zadig is forced to divorce the infidel.

Zadig seeks consolation from the misfortunes sent to him in philosophy and friendship. In the morning, his library is open to all scholars, and in the evening a select society gathers at the house. Opposite the young man's house there lives a certain Arimaz, a bilious and pompous envious person. He was annoyed by the sound of the chariots of the guests coming to Zadig, and the praise of the latter annoyed him even more. One day he finds in the garden a fragment of a poem composed by Zadig, in which the king is insulted. Arimaz runs to the palace and informs the young man. The king is angry and intends to execute the insolent man, but the young man speaks so gracefully, intelligently and sensibly that the ruler changes his anger to mercy, gradually begins to consult with him in all his affairs, and having lost his first minister, appoints Zadig in his place. His name thunders throughout the state, citizens praise his justice and admire his talents. Imperceptibly, the youth and grace of the first minister made a strong impression on Queen Astarte. She is beautiful, intelligent, and her friendly disposition, gentle speeches and gazes, against her will rushing to Zadig, kindled a flame in his heart. All the king's slaves spy on their masters and soon they guessed that Astarte was in love, and Moabdar was jealous. The envious Arimaz forced his wife to send the king her garter, similar to the queen’s garter. The indignant monarch decided to poison Astarte at night and strangle Zadig at dawn. He gives the order for this to the eunuch. At this time, in the king's room there is a dumb, but not deaf, dwarf, who is very attached to the queen. He was horrified to hear about the intended murder and drew the insidious plan on paper. The drawing gets to the queen, she warns Zadig and tells him to run. The young man goes to Egypt. Already approaching the borders of Egypt, he sees a man violently beating a woman. Zadig stands up for the defenseless and saves her, while wounding the offender. But the unexpected messengers from Babylon take the Egyptian with them. Our hero is lost in conjecture. Meanwhile, according to Egyptian laws, a person who shed the blood of his neighbor becomes a slave. And Zadiga is bought at a public auction by the Arab merchant Setok. Convinced of the remarkable abilities of his new slave, the merchant soon acquires a close friend in his person. Like the king of Babylon, he cannot do without him. And the young man is happy that Setok has no wife.

One day Zadig learns about a terrible custom adopted in Arabia, where he finds himself with his new owner. When a married man died, and his wife wanted to become a saint, she publicly burned herself on the corpse of her husband. This day was a solemn holiday and was called "the fire of widowhood". Zadig went to the leaders of the tribe and persuaded them to pass a law allowing widows to burn themselves only after they had a private conversation with some young man. Since then, no woman has burned herself. The priests took up arms against the young man: having abolished this law, he deprived them of their profit, since after the death of the widows all their jewelry went to the priests.

All this time Zadig does not leave anxious thoughts about Astarte. From the Arab robber Arbogad, he learns that distemper reigns in Babylon, Moabdar is killed, if Astarte is alive, then, most likely, she fell into the concubine of the Hyrcanian prince. The young man continues his journey and meets a group of slaves, among whom he discovers the Babylonian queen. There is no limit to the joy of lovers. Astarte tells what she went through. The faithful Kador on the same night that Zadig disappeared, hid her in a temple inside a colossal statue. The king, suddenly hearing the voice of Astarte from the statue, lost his mind. His madness was the beginning of the turmoil. The robber Arbogad captured Astarta and sold it to merchants, so she ended up in slaves. Zadig, thanks to his resourcefulness, takes Astarta away. The queen was greeted in Babylon with enthusiasm, the country became calmer and the Babylonians announced that Astarte would marry whoever they would choose as king, and this would be the bravest and wisest of the candidates. Each of those claiming the throne will have to withstand four spear battles, and then solve the riddles offered by the magicians. Zadig's armor is white, and the white king with shine wins the first horizontal bar. Zadig's adversary, Itobad, deceitfully takes possession of his armor at night, leaving Zadig his own, green ones. In the morning, in the arena, Zadig, dressed in green armor, is showered with insulting ridicule. The young man is in confusion, he is ready to believe that the world is ruled by a cruel fate. Wandering along the banks of the Euphrates, full of despair, he meets an angel who gives him hope, insists on his return to Babylon and the continuation of the competition. Zadig easily solves all the riddles of the wise men and, under the joyful rumble of the crowd, reports that Itobad has stolen his armor. The young man is ready to immediately demonstrate his courage to everyone. And this time he turns out to be the winner. Zadig becomes the king, the husband of Astarte, and he is infinitely happy.

Mesh was summoned from Arabia and put in charge of the Babylonian commerce department. Loyal friend Cador is rewarded according to his merit. The little dumb dwarf is also not forgotten. Zemira could not forgive herself that she believed in the future blindness of Zadig, and Azora did not cease to repent of her intention to cut off his nose. The state enjoyed peace, glory and abundance, for justice and love reigned in it.