Candide, Or Optimism
- Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date:
- 25 May 2006
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Voltaire is a famous philosopher of the Enlightenment, and <i>Candide</i> his most famous work. It's very short, a satiric send-up of Leibniz's theory of optimism through Candide's mentor Dr. Pangloss, who believes we live in "the best of all possible worlds" even in the face of increasingly insane disasters. I thought particularly funny the "genealogy of syphilis" where Pangloss traces the lineage of his infection back in a "direct line from one of Christopher Columbus's shipmates." I also rather loved the iconoclastic and grumpy twitting of classics by Pococurante. I might not agree with his lambasting of Homer and Virgil (though I thought he was dead on about Milton) but I agreed with his principle that "Ignorant readers are apt to judge a writer by his reputation. For my part, I read only to please myself. I like nothing but what makes for my purpose." The story wasn't what I expected from the introduction calling this one of Voltaire's "fables of reason" meant to elucidate philosophy. This wasn't at all dry or inaccessible and was quite fun with lots of lines I'd be tempted to quote if there weren't so many that were wise, witty and striking. This short satire reminded me quite a bit of Swift's <i>Gulliver's Travel</i> only with less bathroom humor and more good-natured.
This was for me, only my 3rd venture into: The 'Classics'. I found it uncomplicated, exciting, emotionally stirring and enjoyably thought provoking. I found myself genuinely empathizing with, and sincerely sympathizing for, the characters.It is on my list of top 100 books to recommend, generally and my top 50 to recommend of the commonly acknowledged ‘Classics’.It should be on EVERY Reading List, and All, young, and not so young alike should be encouraged to add this volume to their list of, ‘Have Reads’. - Lucif~Eos Draqonoviicht
Its been a while since I wrote a review...its proving a lot easier to read than to write :)My first time to read Voltaire. Frankly, I chose Candide cause its a short novel (90 pages!) which should make it easier for me to plow through it. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to read (as opposed to the usual old school classics or philosophical tomes). And it was lots of fun (of the satirical kind). The topic, however, is all seriousness...its a debunking of the claim that everything that happens in our life happens for the best possible reason, whether we know or understand that reason or not (this is my own wording of Pangloss' - Candide's metaphysics teacher - maxim: we live in the best possible version of the world) .By putting Candide and the other characters into the most ridiculously horrific situations, Voltaire puts the doctrine of optimism (and every other form of organized thought) to its limits. If the optimists, the religious, the academics, etc., are wrong about the world (just look at the rampant evil and suffering in the world), how do we make sense of living?Voltaire proposes a solution that is incomplete and far from perfect, which makes the book all the more thought provoking and satisfying. The heaviest 90-page book I've read! My fear is that I may not have understood it enough.Will I recommend it to others? 100% yes!Will I read it again? Yes.Will I read the author's other works? If Candide is any indication of Voltaire's talent as a writer/thinker, then I think I will be looking forward to reading more of his works.Favorite Quote(s):Candide: 'But for what purpose was this world created then?'Martin: 'To drive us mad.'
Candide by Voltaire is a laugh out loud funny book, if you're in the right frame of mind. I read sections of it aloud to CJ and both of us ended up in hysterics. (Be warned, its comedy is often quite dark and unlikely to pass anyone's sensitivity test.) It was written in 1759 and it is clearly a product of its time; but it also still has much to say to us about the current state of the world, unfortunately. The story concerns an idealistic, handsome young man, Candide, who finds his optimism repeatedly tested by the treacherous people he meets and the violent world he inhabits. As a youth, Candide, the son of a wealthy Baron, is tutored by Dr. Pangloss, a German philosopher, who's world view is summed up in the opening chapter, "It is demonstrated that things cannot be otherwise: for, since everything was made for a purpose, everything is necessarily for the best purpose...Therefore, those who have maintained that all is well have been talking nonsense: they should have maintained that all is for the best." Candide clings to Dr. Pangloss' philosoply after Dr. Pangloss is hung and burned at the stake, even after he is driven from his home, separated from his beloved Cunegonde and forced into an unforgiving, hostile world. Candide travels the world looking for Cunegonde and for a place free from suffering. He is at times imprisoned, enslaved, starved, tortured, kidnapped, marooned, etc. etc., but all the while, he believes that all is for the best. The result is a kind of Series of Unfortunate Events for adults. The situations become so comically awful that the reader cannot help but laugh at them and at Candide's reaction. At one point, towards the end of the book, Candide encounters six former kings attending the carnival in Venice. Each king tells his story, all of them stories of how they lost their thrones. Each king's story tries to top the injustice endured by the previous teller with very humorous results. Everyone Candide meets has a tale of woe to tell, yet no one can make a dent in Candide's optimism. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Candide. I expected it to be heavy going, never having read Voltaire before. Instead I found a quickly paced adventure with witty dialogue and satire that I actually found humorous. Candide benefits from the novella form. Had this been a full length novel it would have undoubtedly become tedious. Brevity is the source of wit after all. (I think that's right, anyway.)So, I'm giving Candide by Voltaire five out of five stars. I may end up putting it on my best of the year list this year.
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