The goddess Folly gives a speech, praising herself and explaining how much humanity benefits from her services, from politicians to philosophers, aristocrats, schoolteachers, poets, lawyers, theologians, monarchs and the clergy. At the same time, her discourse provides a satire of Erasmus’s world, poking fun at false pedantry and the aberrations of Christianity. Woven throughout her monologue, a thread of irony calls into question the goddess’s own words, in which ambiguities, allusions and interpretations collide in a way that makes Praise of Folly enduringly fascinating.
In addition to a new translation of Praise of Folly, this volume also includes other works by Erasmus: Pope Julius Barred from Heaven, Epigram against Pope Julius II and a selection of his Adages. Together with the extensive annotation of the texts, these help to set Erasmus’s masterpiece
'Erasmus searched for reconciliation between Faith and Reason, refusing not only the dogmas of Faith, but the dogmas of Reason as well.' Carlos Fuentes
'Praise of Folly, still a masterpiece of slyly subversive wit, was in a sense the first best-seller, read covertly under desks and sniggered over by countless trainee monks and priests.' Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian
'I am well aware that what I have had to say on the problem of peace is not essentially new. It is my profound conviction that the solution lies in our rejecting war for an ethical reason; namely, that war makes us guilty of the crime of inhumanity. Erasmus of Rotterdam and several others after him have already proclaimed this as the truth around which we should rally.' Albert Schweitzer in his 1952 Nobel Peace Prize lecture
'From the terrible hate storm of his age Erasmus has salvaged this intellectual gem, his faith in humanity, and on this small burning wick Spinoza, Lessing and Voltaire – and all Europeans past and present – could light their torch.' Stefan Zweig