Candide (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
  • Candide (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
  • Candide (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Candide (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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by Voltaire

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Candide, by Voltaire, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New
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Candide, by Voltaire, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

One of the finest satires ever written, Voltaire’s Candide savagely skewers this very “optimistic” approach to life as a shamefully inadequate response to human suffering. The swift and lively tale follows the absurdly melodramatic adventures of the youthful Candide, who is forced into the army, flogged, shipwrecked, betrayed, robbed, separated from his beloved Cunégonde, and tortured by the Inquisition. As Candide experiences and witnesses calamity upon calamity, he begins to discover that—contrary to the teachings of his tutor, Dr. Pangloss—all is perhaps not always for the best. After many trials, travails, and incredible reversals of fortune, Candide and his friends finally retire together to a small farm, where they discover that the secret of happiness is simply “to cultivate one's garden,” a philosophy that rejects excessive optimism and metaphysical speculation in favor of the most basic pragmatism.

Filled with wit, intelligence, and an abundance of dark humor, Candide is relentless and unsparing in its attacks upon corruption and hypocrisy—in religion, government, philosophy, science, and even romance. Ultimately, this celebrated work says that it is possible to challenge blind optimism without losing the will to live and pursue a happy life.

Gita May is Professor of French at Columbia University. She has published extensively on the French Enlightenment, eighteenth-century aesthetics, the novel and autobiography, and women in literature, history, and the arts.

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From Gita May's Introduction to Candide

During his stay in England and at Cirey Voltaire's outlook on life was essentially optimistic. In the twenty-fifth and last of his Lettres philosophiques he sternly took Pascal to task for his pessimistic depiction of the human condition, describing him as a "sublime misanthrope"; and in his poem Le Mondain (The Worldly One), published in 1736, he sharply ridiculed the myth of primitive happiness and innocence during the co-called Golden Age, as embodied in the biblical story of Adam and Eve. Conversely, he extolled the Epicurean delights of comfort and luxury brought about by modern civilization. In spite of his controversial reputation, he garnered such high official honors as being elected to the French Academy in 1746. He was still convinced that, on the whole, Newton's eminently rational laws permitted human beings to accommodate themselves and seek their happiness within this orderly universe, set in motion by a supremely powerful but also benevolent being. And as a deist, he generally also subscribed to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's theory that God would not create a universe other than the best of all possible universes, as expounded in his Theodicy (1710).

Voltaire's stay at the court of Frederick II, from 1750 until 1753, turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. Frederick was basically an autocrat, in spite of his much-publicized image as an enlightened "philosopher king." Voltaire's irrepressible wit and bold irreverence were bound to displease and eventually anger his royal host, and eventually Voltiare had to leave Prussia hurriedly and under humiliating circumstances. After some hesitation as to where to find a safe refuge, he settled down in Geneva in December 1759, when he moved to a property he acquired at nearby Ferney, which would be his retreat for the next nineteen years, until shortly before his death in Paris, on May 30, 1778.

Voltaire's early optimism underwent a profound change under the impact of events in his personal life as well as in reaction to those natural and man-made catastrophes that made him keenly aware of human suffering and misery, not to mention the multiple danger that constantly threaten our very existence, let alone our well-being and chances of achieving happiness. His own disappointments-notably the unexpected loss of Madame du Châtelet, the unrelenting hostility of the court of Louis XV, the disenchantment with Frederick, and the precariousness of his personal situation-were compounded by his intense and immediate empathy; he spontaneously identified with all victims of calamities, war, injustice, prejudice, and intolerance.

The news of the terrible Lisbon earthquake of November 1, 1755, which claimed tens of thousands of lives, overwhelmed him with dreadful images of women and children buried under the rubble, and inspired his eloquently anguished Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne (Poem on the Disaster of Lisbon), published in 1756, in which he clearly signals his rejection of Leibniz's concept of a rational and well-regulated universe. The protracted and devastating Seven Years War (1756-1763), which began when Frederick invaded Saxony and soon expanded the lingering hostilities between France and England into a European conflagration, also deeply affected Voltaire's outlook on the human condition.

Voltaire began writing philosophical contes (tales) relatively late in his career and almost as an afterthought, for he subscribed to the neoclassical canon and hierarchy of literary genres according to which tragedy in verse and epic poetry gave an author his most reliable passport to posterity and immortality. Novels, short stories, and contes were looked upon suspiciously as upstart genres with no credible aesthetic or even moral pedigree.

Voltaire began with the traditional short story or novella, and transformed it into the conte philosophique, or philosophical tale, a fast-moving and highly entertaining story combining multiple adventures and voyages with an underlying philosophical and moral theme, written in a pithy style replete with humor, satire, irony, and sly sexual innuendoes. Indeed, ridicule would be Voltaire's most effective weapon against his main targets: fanaticism, intolerance, war, and cruelty.

One of Voltaire's early philosophical tales is Zadig, subtitled La Destinée (Destiny), which appeared in 1747. It is set in the kind of whimsically imaginary and exotic Oriental setting dear to eighteenth-century authors from Montesquieu to Diderot. The uncannily wise, resourceful, and resilient Zadig, whose name derives from the Arabic sadik ("just"), undergoes a number of trials and tribulations, and when faced with disconcerting instances of injustice and suffering, and with the unpredictability and apparent randomness of life in general, anxiously questions and even objects to the notion of a world regulated by a benevolent Providence. But Zadig eventually overcomes adversity and reluctantly submits to the reassuring belief that Providence works in mysterious and unfathomable ways for the ultimately greater good of humanity.

While still in Prussia, Voltaire published Micromégas in 1752. Partially inspired by Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726) and by Cyrano de Bergerac's two fantastic romances about visits to the moon and sun-Autre Monde: ou, Les Estats et empires de la lune (1657) and Les Estats et empires du soleil (1662)-it is a science-fiction story of fantastic, humorous interplanetary travel that strongly reflects Newton's cosmology and Locke's empiricism, and that pointedly resorts to fictional and comic devices in order to fuse science and moral philosophy. In a universe of multiple planets inhabited by creatures of various gigantic dimensions, the remarkable scientific knowledge of the miniscule earthlings is duly acknowledged, but at the same time their basic ignorance in matters of ultimate human values, masked by hubris and pedantry, is pointedly ridiculed and excoriated, especially when viewed from the perspective of two extraterrestrial visitors, Micromégas, the giant originating from Sirius, and his smaller but still huge traveling companion, whom he had picked up on the planet Saturn in the course of his celestial peregrinations.

Candide, the hero of the philosophical tale by that name, came into the world in January 1759 unacknowledged by his creator. The work was proposed as a translation "from the German of Doctor Ralph, with the additions found in the Doctor's pocket when he died at Minden, in the Year of Our Lord 1759." It was customary for Voltaire to deny the paternity of his most potentially controversial writings by mischievously attributing them to imaginary or even real persons to maintain a near total silence about the circumstances and composition of his works of prose fiction.

Voltaire was hardly an introspective author, and in this, as in so many other respects, he stands at the opposite pole from Jean Jacques Rousseau, who insisted, in full knowledge of the dangers involved, on publicly proclaiming the authorship of all his writings and who in both his Confessions (1781, 1788) and correspondence provides much detailed information on their genesis, publication, and immediate public response, as well as official reaction.

Another explanation for Voltaire's reticence about his philosophical tales is his understandable if mistaken belief that these were relatively inconsequential productions belonging to the much decried and maligned genre of the novel, and that they would not fare well with future readers, especially when considered alongside his far more ambitious and serious works-his tragedies, epic and philosophical poems, and historical essays. Whatever Voltaire's own motives or thinking about Candide may have been, there is a persistent but erroneous legend that he dashed off by dictation the thirty chapters of the tale in three days. In is of course far more likely that he wrote Candide over a ten-month period in 1758 and completed the manuscript, with final revisions and additions, in the fall of that year.

The slender book first came off the presses of the brothers Cramer, publishers in Geneva, in January 1759. It was promptly disseminated and repeatedly republished in Paris and elsewhere. Even though it was swiftly condemned by both French and Swiss authorities, and copies were seized in printing shops in Paris and Geneva, it sold briskly under the counters. No official effort to suppress Candide could prevent it from becoming one of the most sensational forbidden best-sellers of pre-Revolutionary France and indeed Europe. Within a year, there were at least three English translations and one edition in Italian.

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Candide 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 293 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Candide was a beautiful story, filled with humor, love, and lots of humor. I think the story is still stimulating even after hundreds of years! I recently read this for my Classics Book Club and we all took turns reading various passages from our varying translations of the book, which is something we tend to do each month. My only complaint about the story is this: the Morley translation (of the B&N Classics version) was AWFUL! All of the beautiful, poetic passages that the others in my group read aloud were translated as drivel in my copy (the only one with the B&N version of this book in our group). It seemed as if Mr. Morley literally translated the French to English (such as "the horse brown" instead of "the brown horse") and thus, lost much of the wonderful wordsmithing of Voltaire. I almost cried when it was my turn to read the opening passage because I knew the B&N version was horrible! Aside from the horrible translation, I would recommend this story to anyone. I wouldn't however, recommend THIS translation of the story. Sorry B&N...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't think I know enough of the political and historical background of the times to really understand parts ofthis story. But it was still interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Candide as a story is worth reading in any language, although it is much funnier and much more enjoyable in original French. However, the reason for that may just be that this is a very poor translation. The language is more archaic than in the original, and many subtleties are lost through poor word choice (for example, in this version Martin "hopes" that all is for the best, while in the original he pessimistically "wishes" that everything was indeed AT ITS BEST). Nevertheless, Candide is a witty and brilliant story that can be enjoyed for philosophical enlightenment or simply for a rainy day. I would recommend, though, that if you're going to read it in English, get a different edition. Normally B&N Classics are nice, quality editions, but this is sadly an exception.
Sifari More than 1 year ago
This book is definately one of the best things I've read in a while. The humor is great, and the characters all seem to fit in a way that makes the story an interesting one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wasn't as taken with this book as many of the reviewers here, but found the book worth reading and interesting since I haven't ever read somethign from this time by a man.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Hi <p> Hello <br> Bye
dayzd89 More than 1 year ago
I always feel silly reviewing classics because what hasn't been said about them, right? But perhaps my take on it is personal. Lately I have been severely depressed. This is nothing new; I've battled depression and anxiety for ten years now. I know that it will never go away completely. But lately it's been so bad, I find myself questioning if my life even matters at all. For the past few months, I've harbored very dark thoughts and have gone through some rough patches. But reading this book has instilled me with renewed hope. While it does critique blind optimism, the ending is rather optimistic in the fact that it conveys a positive message. I like how it ends with realism rather than forced optimism. The main idea I got from the conclusion is that life will happen and that even though bad things will occur to us, we need to keep moving forward no matter what. We have to try to be realistic, which is very hard, but in the end I think it's better for us. Personally, I find a realistic approach to be more fulfilling than blind hope. It helps me to move on and challenge myself. Voltaire is a wonderful writer and I can't wait to read his other works. I highly recommend the novel to Philosophy fans and lovers of classical literature.
Luciano-E More than 1 year ago
Candide by Voltaire is a tale that leaves the reader questioning his or her own hardships, experiences, and views of the world. The philosophical aspect of the book teaches the reader of many different views of people based on their experiences. For example the Character of the old woman in the book serves to represent a pessimistic and hopeless view of the world. The old lady lives her life thinking of what should have been and lives her life in the present in a depressed state. Candide, however had suffered many hardships throughout his life too, always tried to keep a positive mind set and never gave up on the hope for a better life.  The book also leaves the reader questioning the issues of morality and human nature. The injustices showed in the book such as rape and murder were recurring throughout the story. These terrible acts done by other people to the main characters in the book shows that human nature is cruel and unforgiving. Voltaire makes it so Candide never gets what he had been so desperately searching for through the course of the whole story in the end to make a point that in the real world, most of the time people do not end up getting what they want and they usually end up having to settle for less that their ideal &ldquo;happy ending.&rdquo; Candide is a very realistic and blunt representation of hardship and the overall human experience. The moral of the story is that all a person can do in life is attempt to stay positive and to keep moving forward when faced with hardship. This story provides many aspects and ways that people deal with life when faced with suffering and turmoil. The book serves as an accurate representation of human emotion and coping methods in the real world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Voltaire's Candide offers a very witty and comical satire on society. The novel is very funny and is worth the read.
ReadingRaven More than 1 year ago
Candid is utterly tragic, and yet magnificent humor is so cleverly entwined. I found myself laughing throughout the novel. It is profound and beautifully disparaging, and I will read this over again and again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it! It even had illustrations that showed nicely on my nook.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved Candide for its blatent criticism of Leibniz, bleeding with sarcasm and disgust from every page. It is just so cool (for the lack of a better term) that Voltaire wrote a novel just to trash an opposing viewpoint. This book actually made me laugh while reading about the inquisition.
Anonymous 10 months ago
He steps in, a smile across his face. Then, realizing that it's 6:30 in the morning, he leaves the way he came.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*she peeks in, her gaze searching for her Pea Buddy.*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She looked around, somewhat warily. ".... yo."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*A portal to another realm opens in the middle of camp. A few seconds later, a man wearing black boots, black, jeans, a grey tank top, and a black leather coat staggers out, bloody and bruised. He collapses on the ground as the portal disappears.*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The doll-like human sauntered in. Bad Dream Debbie looked around, her eyes glazed over and unable to blink.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She quietly approached Fox. "I think your cast can come off in a day or two."
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&#901This deffinently is a good place.&#901
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She looked around with a sigh
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