Candide: Or, Optimism

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Penguin, 1947 - Fiction - 144 pages
27 Reviews
"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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Comical and philosophical.

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Follows Candide from a castle in Germany (where he is kicked out for kissing the beautiful Cunegonde), to Bulgaria where he is enlisted forcefully in the army against Germany, to South America where he again loses Cunegonde (but meets Cacambo - his page), go to the wonderful city of ElDorado (but leave heaven in search of further happiness), become millionaires a hundred times over with the dirt and rocks of that fair city, lose most of it when their sheep's die, goes back to Europe with Martin (hired because he was the most sorry person who Candide met), meets Cunegonde's brother again and Pangloss, his philosopher from Germany, and rescues the now ugly Cunegonde and the old woman who saved him from the Inquisition in Spain. They move to a little farm and "cultivate their garden."
This was a very short, very quick read. Voltaire used simple language (or at least the translation did) and simple sentences to get his point across. I'm sure some of his genius was from his mastery of storytelling in easy to read, simple language. Candide was an eternal optimist because he had been taught optimism from Pangloss early in his life in Germany. Pangloss told him that everything was right and therefore perfect. Martin was the only Pessimist in the story and he was the happiest. He was also the safest. He had a tough time in his old town in South America, but it was nothing compared to what any of the other characters encountered. The men were beaten, "killed", stolen from, and made slaves. The women were mutilated, raped, killed, and abused. Voltaire wrote his Optimism with a pessimistic pen. I'm sure it was sarcastic, as I say and act in similar fashions as this story was unfolded.


How Candide was brought up in a beautiful
in How Candide escaped from the Bulgars and what
Describing tempest shipwreck and earthquake
dide the Grand Inquisitor and the Jew
How Candide killed the brother of his beloved
What Candide and Martin discussed as they
Candides journey to Constantinople
woman once more

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About the author (1947)

François-Marie Arouet, writing under the pseudonym Voltaire, was born in 1694 into a Parisian bourgeois family. Educated by Jesuits, he was an excellent pupil but one quickly enraged by dogma. An early rift with his father—who wished him to study law—led to his choice of letters as a career. Insinuating himself into court circles, he became notorious for lampoons on leading notables and was twice imprisoned in the Bastille.

By his mid-thirties his literary activities precipitated a four-year exile in England where he won the praise of Swift and Pope for his political tracts. His publication, three years later in France, of Lettres philosophiques sur les Anglais (1733)—an attack on French Church and State—forced him to flee again. For twenty years Voltaire lived chiefly away from Paris. In this, his most prolific period, he wrote such satirical tales as “Zadig” (1747) and “Candide” (1759). His old age at Ferney, outside Geneva, was made bright by his adopted daughter, “Belle et Bonne,” and marked by his intercessions in behalf of victims of political injustice. Sharp-witted and lean in his white wig, impatient with all appropriate rituals, he died in Paris in 1778—the foremost French author of his day.

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