Short Story #132: Bababec by Voltaire
SummaryThe story begins with a Muslim (I assume so; they use the term "Mussulman") visting his Brahman friend in Ganges. The Muslim notes that there are several sects of Fakirs who have various practices that go beyond the norm. For instance, when he passes one, the Fakir is angered because of the shadow that was cast upon him by the Muslim. One group, the Gymnosophists were known for driving nails into their bodies or carrying about chains. The Brahman brings the Muslim to the most famous of them,Bababec. The Brahman asks how many lives he must live until he arrives at Brahma. Bababec asks how many nails the Brahman has driven into himself. When the Brahman answers none, Bababec tells him he cannot reach higher than the nineteenth heaven. When asked, Bababec says that he is into the thirty-fifth heaven. The Brahman then critiques Bababec by saying that his life of sitting there and suffering with nails in himself is not better than any other person's lives, especially those who spend their days giving alms. He convinces Bababec to come with him and do such work. However, Bababec returns to his nails after two weeks since no one was worshiping him.
ReflectionThis feels like typical Voltaire in the presentation of religious leadership as merely spectacle. The criticisms the Brahman brings against Bababec appear little different than those which we see today with religious leaders who do little directly involving the people in need of help but cast judgments and declarations for all to be subject to.
Short Story #132 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 5/7/2014
Source: Great French Short Stories edited by M. E. Speare. The World Publishing Company, 1943. You can find this story and others in this anthology at this resource.
For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.
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