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Candide: Or Optimism Paperback – Jun 30 1950


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Amazon.ca First Novel Award - 6 Canadian Novels Make the Shortlist



Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; 1st New impression edition (June 30 1950)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140440046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140440041
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1 x 19.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 59 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #401,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

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Political satire doesn't age well, but occasionally a diatribe contains enough art and universal mirth to survive long after its timeliness has passed. Candide is such a book. Penned by that Renaissance man of the Enlightenment, Voltaire, Candide is steeped in the political and philosophical controversies of the 1750s. But for the general reader, the novel's driving principle is clear enough: the idea (endemic in Voltaire's day) that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and apparent folly, misery and strife are actually harbingers of a greater good we cannot perceive, is hogwash.

Telling the tale of the good-natured but star-crossed Candide (think Mr. Magoo armed with deadly force), as he travels the world struggling to be reunited with his love, Lady Cunegonde, the novel smashes such ill-conceived optimism to splinters. Candide's tutor, Dr. Pangloss, is steadfast in his philosophical good cheer, in the face of more and more fantastic misfortune; Candide's other companions always supply good sense in the nick of time. Still, as he demolishes optimism, Voltaire pays tribute to human resilience, and in doing so gives the book a pleasant indomitability common to farce. Says one character, a princess turned one-buttocked hag by unkind Fate: "I have wanted to kill myself a hundred times, but somehow I am still in love with life. This ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our most melancholy propensities; for is there anything more stupid than to be eager to go on carrying a burden which one would gladly throw away, to loathe one's very being and yet to hold it fast, to fondle the snake that devours us until it has eaten our hearts away?"--Michael Gerber

Review

“When we observe such things as the recrudescence of fundamentalism in the United States, the horrors of religious fanaticism in the Middle East, the appalling danger which the stubbornness of political intolerance presents to the whole world, we must surely conclude that we can still profit by the example of lucidity, the acumen, the intellectual honesty and the moral courage of Voltaire.”
—A. J. Ayer --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
THERE lived in Westphalia, at the country seat of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh, a young lad blessed by nature with the most agreeable manners. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert D. Day on Dec 30 2003
Format: Paperback
Candide is a difficult read not for it's depth and complexity, but for it's clarity and simplicity. Voltaire packs irony and wit into what feels like EVERY sentence - to the point where one stops chuckling after the first couple chapters and begins sighing with boredom. Nevertheless, Candide does have some very witty and scathing criticisms of those aspects of the Enlightenment for which Voltaire has justified (again and again!) disdain. The bombardment of ironic juxtapositions and exquisitely illustrative hypocrisies goes on and on; one should wear plenty of lace and develop a knowing smirk to read it with its full integrity. One almost need not read beyond the first several chapters. Nevertheless, Voltaire's dedication to reasonable reason and humanism should be part of everyone's education.
This edition, like every other Norton Critical Edition I've encountered, is splendid and definitive. But, unlike Norton Critical Editions of longer works, this slim volume does not have Bible-thin paper and close, narrow type; the paper and type are of a pleasing quality. But the footnotes are what really set this edition apart. Written with humor and verve, Robert M. Adams' notes not only define the allusions and references in Voltaire's text, they elaborate how they fit into the text as a whole.
This is THE edition of Candide for both casual and scholarly reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By burghtenor on Aug. 30 2003
Format: Paperback
Francois-Marie Arouet (pen name Voltaire) was one of the greatest thinkers of 18th-century Europe. In his brief novella CANDIDE -- which takes less than two hours to read -- he explains the purpose of human existence, with brilliant observations and witty humor. Voltaire offers up numerous philosophies devised by the greatest minds in history, none of which makes the remotest sense in the crazy, multi-continent, tragedy-ridden misadventures of Candide, his tutor Pangloss, his beloved Cunegonde, and the host of remarkable characters they meet.
To call this novella episodic is an understatement. There is more plot in some paragraphs of CANDIDE than there is in most thousand-page epics. We hear countless tales of injustice, swindle, rape, torture, famine, murder, plague, earthquake, and war, but Voltaire presents them in such rapid-fire understatement that the tragedies become hilarious. (Most notable is the tale of the Old Lady losing half of her backside in a seige.) It is only after Candide and his band of comrades lose vast fortunes multiple times that they happen across a lifestyle that offers a moderate amount of enduring satisfaction...
...but I will not tell you how Voltaire says that you can find happiness and fulfillment. Next time you have a rainy afternoon with nothing to do, let Voltaire explain it himself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 8 2003
Format: Paperback
In response to the person who complained about the English translation of Candide featured in this book, I wish to point out a few things. Firstly, the French of the original version by Voltaire cannot be considered as 'modern,' even though it is perfectly understandable to the modern reader. There are a few archaic touches here and there, sometimes because the language has evolved, sometimes because Voltaire intended it so (e.g. the title of the first chapter, "et comment il fut chassé d'icelui" > "and how he was driven thence", or something like that, was archaic even for Voltaire). I find the English translation fairly accurate in that respect. This is the opinion of a native French speaker, though.
Secondly, and consequently, the use of 'thou' in the translation is understandable. This is not the 'clerical' thou as can still be read in the English Bible and other 'flavoured' translations, but the older 'thou', which had become in Late Middle English the familiar, even contemptuous form of the deferential pronoun 'ye' (originally exclusively plural). The 'clerical' thou is a relatively modern device used in certain type of writings to convey an archaic language, but it is really an 'invention.' Therefore, the use of 'thou' in Candide, where the French has the familiar form 'tu,' is acceptable ; but it certainly can be misleading to the modern reader.
That is not to say this is the perfect translation -- such a thing does not exist. Where Voltaire uses understatement to great comic effect I find the translator usually too emphatic. Also the French version is much more vulgar in places. I suppose this translation is quite old ; there are others, but I did not read them.
To those considering purchasing or reading this book: do so, by all means. Candide is a thought-provoking, entertaining and humorous tale for readers of various tastes. It is a classic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Shadow on Dec 22 2007
Format: Paperback
This is the greatest book ever. It's not hard to understand despite its age, is incredibly fast-paced (months can go by in a single page), and the most hilarious thing you'll ever read. I loved how Voltaire described horrible gut-wrenching events with such blunt matter-of-fact-ness, as though walking over mutilated bodies to get somewhere is a normal everyday occurence, and deadly STDs are a thing to be passed along like currency, not to be given a second thought. The style is absolutely brilliant. "The baron was one of the most powerful lords in Westphalia, for his castle had a door and windows. Its hall was even adored with a tapestry." This is a great study of classic satire for those looking for an entertaining read and intellectuals alike. Complex in its simplicity, I'm jealous I can't write such a thing myself. I really wish we had studied it in college. You'll be tempted to quote the whole thing, peice by peice.
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