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Candide is characterised by its sarcastic tone, as well as by its erratic, fantastical and fast-moving plot. A picaresque novel with a story similar to that of a more serious bildungsroman, it parodies many adventure and romance clichés, the struggles of which are caricatured in a tone that is mordantly matter-of-fact. Still, the events discussed are often based on historical happenings, such as the Seven Years War and the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. As philosophers of Voltaires day contended with the problem of evil, so too does Candide in this short novel, albeit more directly and humorously. Voltaire ridicules religion, theologians, governments, armies, philosophies, and philosophers through allegory; most conspicuously, he assaults Leibniz and his optimism.
As expected by Voltaire, Candide has enjoyed both great success and great scandal. Immediately after its secretive publication, the book was widely banned because it contained religious blasphemy, political sedition and intellectual hostility hidden under a thin veil of naïveté. However, with its sharp wit and insightful portrayal of the human condition, the novel has since inspired many later authors and artists to mimic and adapt it; most notably, Leonard Bernstein composed the music for the 1956 comic operetta adapted from the novel. The original 1956 libretto of Candide, written by Lillian Hellman, was an intensely bitter and somewhat loose adaptation of Voltaire, but Hugh Wheelers new libretto, first produced in 1974, was a far more faithful adaptation of the novella, and the one which is still in use today. Today, Candide is recognised as Voltaires magnum opus and is often listed as part of the Western canon; it is likely taught more than any other work of French literature.