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Penguin Classics Candide Or Optimism [Paperback]

Francois Voltaire , John Butt
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 1 1947 Penguin Classics
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".

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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


“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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Action-packed, hilarious, vulgar ... brilliant! Aug. 30 2003
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
5.0 out of 5 stars About the translation July 8 2003
By A Customer
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Dec 22 2007
By Shadow
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Candid About Candide July 14 2004
By Sean K.
The style of exposition used in this book is reminiscent of The Misfortunes of Virtue by the Marquis de Sade. Voltaire presents a catalog of calamities meant to debunk the belief that our world is perfect, and that everything happens "for the best" according to some divine plan. While there is no doubt that Candide is persuasive in its comical misadventures, the style gets old just as it did in The Misfortunes of Virtue. The story becomes a trite joke that loses its potency with each subsequent catastrophe, so that half way through the novel the reader no longer cares what befalls Candide and begins to pray that some benevolent deity will put him out of his (and our) misery. If I were not so thoroughly desensitized to tragedy, and had I not already come to the philosophical conclusions that Voltaire is trying to lead his reader, than I might have found the novel to be more profound. Still the novel is well written, reads quickly if you ignore the endnotes*, and is fairly entertaining.
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.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Arrived very quickly. Nice format, great for taking places on the go. Print is a bit small, but overall very good.
Published 3 months ago by Melissa
5.0 out of 5 stars timely delivery
good condition, came with letter and bookmark. there is no reason not to give five stars. Very funny book humor shines through
Published 6 months ago by cameronn mulligan
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible
Candide (optimism), first published in 1759, has a lot to do with destiny, and how everything in preordained. Read more
Published on Dec 20 2009 by Sam
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible
Candide (optimism), first published in 1759, has a lot to do with destiny, and how everything in preordained. Read more
Published on Dec 20 2009 by Sam
4.0 out of 5 stars Edutainment, 18th century style
Candide is a short satirical work that questions if this world is indeed the best of all possible worlds, as 'Liebniz's disciples' believed. Read more
Published on May 21 2004 by MrSherlockHolmes
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally A Book That Mirrors My Own Thoughts On The World
I had some hesitation about reading Candide but I found that this book has mirrored my own thoughts on how life is. Read more
Published on May 20 2004 by DJ_Bitter
4.0 out of 5 stars One-note concerto
I loved this book the first time I read it in college. But after re-reading it, I've concluded that while Voltaire has a lot going on in this story, there is a simple formula... Read more
Published on May 11 2004 by Luis M. Luque
2.0 out of 5 stars Even Proust isn�t this french.
This is a french book. French books are, of course, often french, but this one is frencher than most. Ah, Pierrot! Reading this fine french book makes me the sad clown of life. Read more
Published on March 28 2004 by Loudon Is A Fool
4.0 out of 5 stars Candide--A classic worth reading
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Voltaire's Candide. Voltaire's use of satire and irony creates timeless humor that can be appreciated by many readers. Read more
Published on Feb. 22 2004 by Elizabeth Kirkwood
5.0 out of 5 stars A Comic Masterpiece -- read it to laugh!
Candide, which is subtitled Optimism, was written in 1759, and is proof that a sharp wit and biting satire was just as much appreciated in Voltaire's time, as it is today. Read more
Published on Jan. 10 2004
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