Social satire about a young man who believes, despite much evidence to the contrary, that "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds".
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
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.
The worst part of this novel is the numerous jabs that Voltaire throws at his contemporary rivals, which I found to be completely annoying. If the author chooses to use his novel as a means of disseminating propaganda against his opponents so be it, but don't expect it to translate well into a time when you and all those other characters are long since dead. Attacking ridiculous ideas is one thing, but forcing the reader (ME) to endure century old grudges through less than subtle personal attacks is something entirely different. Even after reading the "titillating tidbits" supplied by the annotator -- e.g. "The Journal de Trevoux, founded in 1701, was a Jesuit periodical hostile to Voltaire" or "Gabriel Gauchat, a contemporary critic hostile to Voltaire and the Encyclopedists" -- I still have no clue what or who Voltaire is attacking.
* Every time I was compelled to read an endnote just to find out that Voltaire was referencing some long forgotten Frenchmen I wanted to fling the book across the room.