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'Candide' Review

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Candide

Candide

Bantam Classic
In 1759, a vitriolic Frenchman known as Voltaire (1694-1778) wrote Candide. It was written in retaliation against the tenets of the then-eminent German philosopher Leibniz, who claimed that mankind lives in the best of possible worlds. Voltaire tried to dismantle this notion, and thus created his most widely read book. The Bantam Classic edition offers a highly informative forward by Andre Maurois, with caustic wit and hyperbole.

The Tale of Candide

The story begins in Westphalia, from which young, naive and gullible Candid is forced to flee. A disciple of his tutor, Pangloss, Candide explains his misfortunes and those of others, determined to find links between cause-and-effect. Throughout most of the book, the reader is shown the adverse reactions of pre-established harmony (as Leibniz proposed): that even distress is a necessary good for man, and for the order of the world.

Of course, this belief is repeatedly mocked and undercut by trials and tribulations, numerous incidents that bespeak the brutality of man, and the indifference of the world in general. Eventually, Candide is welcomed in a mythical land across the sea, in a place sought after by generations of explorers. However, love prompts Candid to venture on...

Voltaire had his own concept of God; and the author is often called an agnostic. He loathed the Church's abuses of power and the hypocrisy. Candide is Voltaire's way of lashing out against the clergy, but it also led to the defamation of Voltaire by the Church.
Of course, coincidence plays a major role in the book; satire allows for that. A dualism is always present. Optimism is challenged by pessimism, especially with Martin. As Candide asks, "But for what purpose was the earth formed?" And Martin replies, "To drive us mad."

Candide is a timeless burlesque; the yesterdays of conduct and history are reflected in the mirrors of today. The reader must discover how Voltaire answers the question of whether or not humanity truly lives in the best of all possible worlds. The book's ending may not be the best of all possible endings, but it could be far worse...
User Reviews

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 4 out of 5
Not Always for the Best, Member K.Austene

Voltaire's, Candide (ISBN 978-1-59308-028-0, 130 Pages, Translated by Henry Morley) is what many consider to be a venerated book detailing themes and theories consistent with the age of enlightnement and western literature. Voltaire glorifies reason and empiricism at the expense of optimism, blind faith, and societal institutions like religion and government. However, is it a true classic? Scholars and authors disagree to this day and William Bottiglia dubiously penned the phrase labeling Candide as a 'miniature classic'. The fictional satire follows Candide of Westphalia through adventures that are comprised of true occurrences in the world and fictional odysseys such as the city of El Dorado. All the while tragedy after tragedy befalls our hero and the people surrounding him, making him stretch to justify his teacher Pangloss' philosophy of optimism and eventually question that mindset. Some events that transpire include: Candide's conscription into the army, the earthquake at Lisbon, an inquisition in Portugal that hangs dear Pangloss, the prostitution of Candide's beloved Cunegonde, and the discovery of El Dorado. Voltaire's tale is short, humorous, and meaningful with constant quips directed at his contemporaries and critics. Despite the profound and poignant criticism of optimism and blind faith, the rapidity of the adventure both defines and hurts its impact. The very fact that Voltaire seeks to undermine and satirize traditional writing methods makes his own style the anti-classic rather than a miniature masterpiece. Perhaps I would presume too much in saying that he would appreciate this definition rather than others labeling it as a lesser version of some other bona fide novel due to its size. Please do read the introduction by Gita May. Informative and analytical, she does an exemplary job of introducing and explaining the tale that will follow and how it connects with Voltaire's life and personal points of view. I would personally recommend that most if not all should read this tale. The wit and style find their way into today's modern works and have influenced quite a few great minds. Just remember, far from falling short to the classics of antiquity and canon of modern day, Candide should honestly be considered an anti-classic set aside from any comparisons to larger traditional tales. It has been established as and most likely is the precursor and father to a category all its own.

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