Candide is the story of a gentle man who, though pummeled and slapped in every direction by fate, clings desperately to the belief that he lives in "the best of all possible worlds." On the surface a witty, bantering tale, this eighteenth-century classic is actually a savage, satiric thrust at the philosophical optimism that proclaims that all disaster and human suffering is part of a benevolent cosmic plan. Fast, funny, often outrageous, the French philosopher's immortal narrative takes Candide around the world to discover that -- contrary to the teachings of his distringuished tutor Dr. Pangloss -- all is not always for the best. Alive with wit, brilliance, and graceful storytelling, Candide has become Voltaire's most celebrated work.
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Candide, or OptimismUser Review - Not Available - Book Verdict
Two standards of European literature join Penguin's Classics Deluxe Editions club. Candide sports an especially spiffy cover by comic artist Chris Ware and a top text. The Undset volume combines all three parts of the epic with explanatory notes. Read full review
Voltaire's fictional critique of Leibnizian optimism is as relevant, hilarious, touching and profound as it was when Arouet penned it in the midst of the eighteenth century. Voltaire's urbane knowledge and keen intuition were deftly intertwined here as he presented a blunt, brutal, painfully accurate depiction of an unkind world as it existed in his time, one that pummels the colorful cast of this exciting novella. As with almost all of Voltaire's satire, no infamy remains unexposed, and no hypocrisy unnamed.
Bair's translation isn't the best that I've read of this work, but it's certainly adequate. He implements simple prose, sacrificing little of the wit of the original text. As a language of nuance, English can't be favorably compared to French, so translations like these are bound to be imperfect. Here, Bair balances refinement and comprehension with a slight preference for the latter, and the results are pleasing. The footnotes provided are sparse, but sufficient.
The amusing, lusty, sharply-defined illustrations by Sheilah Beckett accompany the text quite well, too. They can't compare to the visuals of prior editions by the likes of Ghendt or Baquoy, but they're engaging enough.
The foreword by Andre Marois is slightly less satisfactory. It provides a brief history of Voltaire's life and work and places the period of the book into a cohesive context, but Marois also engages in some absurd speculation. Most of this consists of a childish attempt to classify Voltaire as a humanist, based solely on the fact that he was humane. Never mind the man's racism and support of war as a means to keep order. He wept for the downtrodden, so he must have been a humanist! But this distasteful attempt at appropriation is brief and quickly forgotten as soon as one is midway through the first chapter of this brilliant little story.