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.
When I promised myself to read as many of the classics as possible and give works of that category a special preference, Candide waited at the top of my list. Short in length but not laughs, this book served as probably my clearest introduction to satire, and who better to lead the way into the genre than Voltaire himself? Trapped in a critique of unbridled optimism, the characters suffer one tragedy or cruelty after another - and yet, though powerful in delivering the point, somehow through all the misery the tale still abounds with moments of hilarity. Timeless questions of the human experience parade throughout the story, disguised under layers of sarcasm and wit. Readers may feel shocked one moment, but need only turn a few pages to laugh out loud. As a quick, entertaining, yet covertly heavy read, the piece makes a great entry point to the work of satirists - or just a masterful diversion into "the best of all possible worlds," depending on your perspective.
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.'
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