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.
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.