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Candide: Or Optimism
     

Candide: Or Optimism

4.1 19
by Voltaire
 

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"All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds"
 
It was the indifferent shrug and callous inertia that this "optimism" concealed which so angered Voltaire, who found the "all for the best" approach a patently inadequate response to suffering, to natural disasters, not to mention the questions of illness and man-made war. Moreover, as the

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Candide: Or Optimism 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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steveiewoolf More than 1 year ago
Candide is a third person narrative that can be seen as a piece of travel writing, a fable or a parable. What it most certainly is, is a satirical piece of writing that though written over 250 years ago it still has relevance today. To be more precise it is indirect satire which allows the readers to draw their own conclusions. It also allows Voltaire to disavow the words written. This is made clear by Voltaire not putting his name to the novel until some eight years later even though most readers were fully aware who had written it. The themes of the Candide are large, the hypocrisy of religion, the corrupting power of money and the folly of optimism.  Candide explores them all in detail within what should really be considered a novella. The edition I read is part of the Penguin Classics series, translated and edited by Theo Cuffe and has an introduction by Michael Wood, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. As with all the Penguin Classics series that I have read this is a superb edition. This edition includes a chronology, a map, notes on the text and names plus various appendices. Unless you have a good working knowledge of the 18th century then the notes are a must. With Candide being a satire than one needs to know the history of the period the book is set to understand what is being satirized.  In the midst of the novella is a love story; the love of Candide for Cunégonde, the Baron’s daughter. When the Baron discovers Candide’s love for his daughter he is driven out of the castle. While trying to make his own way in the world he meets his tutor from his days at the castle, Pangloss. Pangloss informs him that Cunégonde is dead as are everyone else at the castle after it was attacked. From there Candide and the various companions he meets on his travels encounter an egregious series of events; an earthquake, the Inquisition, murder, rape, a shipwreck and many others.  Candide fights to maintain his optimism and Pangloss tries to maintain his belief that “everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.” Throughout the novella Voltaire is ridiculing the cosmic complacency and optimism that is expressed by philosophers of the day. The book is an intellectual, philosophical and religious journey through the period of the Enlightenment in what became known as the ‘long’ eighteenth century.  The novella moves a hectic pace which can leave one feeling breathless. The chapters are short and strangely each chapter has a heading which conveys the events that will occur in the chapter so ruining much of the novella’s suspense. The novel’s hectic pace was remarked on by the playwright Lillian Hellman who wrote the libretto for the operetta of the book for the stage; “the greatest piece of slap-dash ever written at the greatest speed.”
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As one of Voltaire's most renowned works, Candide definitely lives up to its reputation. Clearly the master of satire, Voltaire's wit and heavy sarcasm are weaved throughout the very fibers of the tale, Candide. An amazing author; Voltaire has the power to entice laughter, but lull reader's into deep thought at the same time, and he does no less with Candide. It is as intellectually stimulating and humorous as his other works-at least it is for those who aren't complete optimists, as Voltaire pokes fun of the philosophy of optimism that was popular during the Enlightenment period in which it was written. Candide tells the adventures of a youth by the name of Candide who was brought up in the palace of a Baron of Germany in Westphalia. Candide's very name means optimism, purity, and innocence-which also happen to be his defining traits. He spends his days toiling around the castle practically the "oracle" of the house, Pangloss the tutor. Pangloss has adopted and preaches the philosophy of optimism that "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds". One day, Candide falls in love with the Baron's daughter Cunégonde, and when they are caught together he is kicked out of the household. From there Candide is enlisted in the Bulgarian army, takes in part of the Inquisition, and travels from Germany to Italy, Spain, Eldorado, and other countries, all the while having his faith in optimism brutally tested. Along his travels he is reunited with Pangloss who has become a "horrible beggar", described as being covered in sores and, "dull-eyed, with the end of his nose fallen away. his teeth black.[and was] tormented with a violent cough and spat out a tooth at every cough." The conversation of Candide and Pangloss-who has contracted syphilis-an explanation of his and Candide's former home's plight, is one of the most entertaining passages in the book. As he explains to Candide how he contracted the disease-which was from the former Baroness's chamber maid Paquette-he does so in such detail (yet ambiguous) and nonchalance that it is all too clear Voltaire is blatantly ridiculing the optimistic philosopher. Pangloss says, "Paquette received this present from a most learned monk, who had it from the source; for he received it from an old countess, who had it from an cavalry captain, who owed it to a marchioness, who derived it from a page, who had received it from a Jesuit, who, when a novice, had it in a direct line from one of the companions of Christopher Columbus." What's even better is that he even has the gall to justify that it was for the best in the, "best of all possible worlds." Sticking to his optimistic motto, Pangloss explains, "It was something indispensable in this best of worlds.for, if Columbus in an island of America had not caught this disease.we would not have chocolate and cochineal." Of course ever naïve Candide agrees and continues to foolishly believe in the philosophy of optimism. Another great part of this book is the debates the characters have. While Candide is travelling, he comes across an extremely unfortunate scholar by the name of Martin who is the exact opposite of Pangloss. Martin totes around with him the philosophy of pessimism, finding evil and despair in everything, but rightfully so as he has a difficult life. He's also more intelligent than Pangloss and is able to draw conclusions much more successfully than him.
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Braffort More than 1 year ago
Chris Ware's pseudo naive illustration on the cover add to Voltaire's acid irony. Extreme stylization allow a surprisingly realist efficiency, as is shown withe the picture of Lisbon earthquake on inside cover. Above this picture, we may appreciate Leibniz large wig, the only (but sufficient) recognizable item.
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