Rameau's Nephew Background

Rameau's Nephew Background

Written by Denis Diderot, Rameau’s Nephew was published in 1805. The work was written in French in the 1760s and 70s, but it was not published during Diderot’s lifetime. Von Goethe translated the text into Germany in 1805 and it was published then, and in 1821, the work was finally retranslated into French and then published. The original manuscript was not republished until 1891. Diderot was a French philosopher and writer, an important figure during the Enlightenment. Diderot's reputation in the literary world during his lifetime was affected primarily by his plays and his contributions to the Encyclopédie.

Rameau’s Nephew is an imaginary conversation, philosophical of course, between Moi, the fictional representation of Diderot, and Lui, the Bohemian nephew of the composer Rameau. They start showing off to each other, flaunting their wit and their knowledge, until their conversation is no longer just a debate. Both men are intelligent, and both want to show up the other, so it turns into a chess game with all the sly tricks, and as they satirize the French society that they are living in, they also discuss the nature of mediocrity, genius, music, and art.

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