More than 100 students and academics from Oxford University have translated extracts from great French writers of the eighteenth century to demonstrate the importance of freedom and tolerance in French literature and thought.
A book of these translated quotations is to be published tomorrow to mark the one-year anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.
The book can be read for free online.
It is targeted at the general public and the authors hope it will be used for teaching in schools.
Dr Caroline Warman of the Faculty of Medieval & Modern Languages at the University of Oxford, who led the project, said: ’We hope people will be excited by the texts and that it will help them to reflect on the world we live in now.
‘We want this book to reach people thinking about tolerance and intolerance, and to inspire them to connect with our history, as they discover that major European thinkers of the past also wrote passionately about these topics.
‘So many students and colleagues wanted to be involved in this project. We thought it was something we could do to show our support for France and for all countries in the world affected by these issues.
‘I wrote the preface for the book in the week after the recent attacks in Paris and it was very difficult to do – I had to acknowledge what had happened but I tried not to be too emotional about it.’
One of the passages chosen is from Voltaire’s La Henriade, an epic poem about Henry IV who converted from Protestant to Catholic to end the religious wars tearing France apart in the sixteenth century. It includes the lines:
While all was dark and night lay black and still
They raised the signal, gave the call to kill
The fate of Coligny, a bleak presage
Was only a mild foretaste of their rage
Unbridled soldiers of a murderous race
There are also passages from English, German and Spanish writers, as well as themes which aren’t limited to France such as slavery, colonialism and exploitation.
Oxford academics will also mark the anniversary of Charlie Hebdo today by holding a panel discussion on tolerance at a conference organised by the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies at St Hugh’s College.