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5.0 out of 5 stars Action-packed, hilarious, vulgar ... brilliant!
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...
Published on Aug. 30 2003 by burghtenor
3.0 out of 5 stars Candid About Candide
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...
Published on July 14 2004 by Sean K.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Cynicism as poetry.,
Diamonds, they say, are made from graphite. Voltaire has here written a gem of a story from the unpromising material of cynicism and farce. Don't try this at home -- apart from genius, it will fall flat -- but Candide ripples with wit.
Leibnetz, it is true, is hardly a household name today. But I expect Candide was also meant to be a sword-thrust into the soft underbelly of theism, the "Problem of Pain." While orthodox Christians do not claim this to be the "best of all possible worlds" (rather, a fallen one), the chaotic and apparently senseless troubles in it seem to a lot of us, too, to be the best argument against our faith. Voltaire twists the knife well. I was glad to see that though he excels, and delights, in mockery, the story functions ultimately as what may be an honest question, like that of Job or of Solomon. (In fact, ironically, the book Candide most reminds me of is Ecclesiastes.)
In one regard, at least, Candide is less true to life than the Biblical point of view, however. Thousands die here, but no one is begotten. The insanity of life is celebrated to the full, but its beauty and wonder are not squarely faced. The one-sidedness of Voltaire's approach lessens it as a work of philosophy, in my opinion. I couldn't help but reflect that many in the 20th Century went into the hell-holes of communist prisons, where every horror Candide and his friends experienced occurred, and more (the atheists of the 20th Century were also, in their own ways, ingenious), yet emerged with a strong belief in God. (Even some, like Solzhenitsyn, who went in as atheists.) Why is that? Philosophy, it seems to me, needs to face all sides of a question. This Voltaire hardly pretends to do: the book is a question, not an answer. But as satire on premature answers, it sizzles.
If all Voltaire's books contain cannabalism, libel, bestiality, and philosophical arguments based on slapstick humor, I can hardly blame the authorities for burning them. Being something of a Puritan myself, I docked Voltaire a star. Let that be a lesson.
The introduction by Andre Maurois is excellent.
author, Jesus and the Religions of Man
4.0 out of 5 stars Still a good read,
As a closet pessimist, I have often come across - and scoffed at - the notion that we live in the "best of all possible worlds." The must be so, of course, because the great God almighty is omniscent, omnipotent, omnibenevolent - in short, perfect, and cannot make a mistake. Therefore, all the seemingly needless suffering, trials, and tribulations that are inherent in our world - i.e., airplanes crashing into buildings - are actually for the better, for the greater good, because everything, EVERYTHING - no matter how seemingly cruel and inhumane - is part of the Big Guy's Great Cosmic Plan. Every action has a purpose, and that purpose is (perpetually) benign.
All of which is fine, except...
Have you looked at the world lately? I have, and, it seems to me that there are, to put it delicately, Several Flaws In This Plan. I watched two airplanes crash into two major American buildings, needlessly killing thousands, and I find it somewhat hard to believe, to put it lightly, that this is the "best of all possible worlds." I'm sure most you do as well... or else you probably wouldn't be reading this, now would you?
And yet, in the 18th Century time period when this book was written, just such a philosophy was popular (perhaps "rampant" is a more accurate term) among the heavy, high-brow philosophers of the day. Candide (subtitled "Optimism") is Voltaire's refutation of the notion. The writing is heavily sarcastic and burlesque - not to mention dark - as any good satire must be. It contains much delicate gallows humor. It reminds me of nothing (and I realize this is an obvious case of putting the carriage years before the horse) so much as our dearly beloved 20th century Doomsday Prophet Laurete, Kurt Vonnegut. Certainly, as this was in essence an ephermal political satire of the time in which it was written, Candide is not, perhaps as technically valid to our present "modern-day" society as the work of a, say, Vonnegut. As the book is primarily a reaction to the notion in question (that of all-pervading and naive optimism), and not an explanation of it picking its faults specifically (which is to say, it does not explain the nature of what it is refuting, assuming the reader already knows), much of the sarcasm has been lost through the years. One would need a general knowledge of 18th century philosophy to appreciate all the points that the book tries to make. However, Voltaire's main messages are certainly clear enough, and just as valid today as they ever were - and always will be. Read Candide - it's a dark, funny, irrevently hilarous and enlightening satire on man and his naive, optimistic folly and fallacious outlook. Even if you don't like the book - unlikely, if you have already waded through my review this far - I guarantee that you will respect it, and that it will make you think - and, perhaps, get you to question certain notions that you may have held unquestioningly throughout your life. Essential 18th century literature.
4.0 out of 5 stars Amusing in the best possible way,
One of the most popular philosophical ideas in Europe during the eighteenth century was that of "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds". It was the catch-phrase for Leibniz's argument that because god had created the world, everything was made to occur for the best because god's creations couldn't be evil. So even events that seem tragic and pointless are actually part of some larger, cosmically good plan that mere humans can't see. Therefore we should all accept our fate, and know that everything happens for the best, because we live in the best of all possible worlds.
Voltaire, a man who had twice been imprisoned in the Bastille and then exiled, thought this was a crock of you-know-what. Candide, subtitled Optimism, is his satirical response to this idea. Clearly humour was one of Voltaire's strong assets; Candide is quite funny. Many critics say that the characters aren't well developed, but I think that they're broadly drawn on purpose. I believe that one of the reasons Candide still works in our time is that we can identify the characters with people we know, and so we can follow their relationships and actions. For example, the old woman (who is never named) has seen what life has to offer, and cannot be surprised by anything anymore. I'm sure we all know at least one person like this. And Pangloss is basically a self-help guru, spouting out feel-good nonsense and getting paid a lot of money for his time. Candide is also somewhat short on dialog versus explication, but I didn't mind it.
However, the major drawback is that Candide was written in the eighteenth century, when the idea of the best possible world was so popular. Therefore the book is not an explanation and then rebuttal of it. Candide is only Voltaire's shout of disgust with it, and so the original idea is not addressed in any depth. In order to recover a large amount of the sarcasm, one would have to be fairly proficient in eighteenth-century philosophy.
Even with this weakness, I still found Candide a funny, enjoyable short read, and that Voltaire's basic ideas came through in the end.
4.0 out of 5 stars Life is a Hogwash of Toils,
In Candide, Voltaire chronicles the travels and travails of a group of perenial optimists despite the many harsh and cruel blows life deals these people. By experiencing murder, beating, torture, censorship, banishment, theft, and slavery this group of loosely tied adventurers inquire about the most intricate details of life's philosophies in the most lighthearted and witty quips centering around God's general plan for the betterment of society as a whole and the individual sacrifices and seemingly absurd happenstances needed to occur for this greater progress to occur.
This seems to culminate in discussions around drunken card games held at baron's and other highly-esteemed officials pallaces where there thousands of dust-collecting books seems to be the ultimate symbolic farce of the pointlessness of societal mores and trivial critical establishments. Afterwards, after many unlikely events and quick turnarounds from despair to wealthy gleeming back to gloomy hopelessness, Candide and his journeyman Martin come across other mentors and enemies from his past, as well as his long sought after lover Cunegonde, to find them in the most deplorable conditions and with many regrets, but yet with unflayling blind optimism.
The book greatly picks up from their journey into the utopian like village of El Dorado onwards and then gains the respect that has been hyped upon it. However, I still think this is overrated and maybe the translation has lost some of the supposed wit and fancy of the original Frenchman's work and his rhyme and prose style.
In the end, we are all left to create our own Garden of Eden from whatever limited/superfluous environments affordable and available to us and make the best of the people, places, culture, and tools to us. You can loose your mind and you will be among the many who have lost their minds, certainly in the majority and only by crossing that boundary of supposed weakness can you transcend the peculiar weaknesses of the mind and body.
A toast to Voltaire for his lively and everlasting work!
4.0 out of 5 stars The Best of All Worlds,
Voltaire's short 1759 lampoon of the fashionable feel-good philosophies then making the rounds of Europe continues to bring a smile. It's not a literary masterpiece, but a quick and funny satire. In style, it reads something like Swift's "Gulliver's Travels", but its humor is more pointed and its satire more trenchant.
Candide is an illegitimate boy expelled from his adoptive home for kissing the Baron's daughter. A simple and candid man, he resolutely adheres to his tutor's absurd theory that "all is for the best". In coming years, Candide and everyone he meets suffer tortures, rapes, slavery, and death. Yet Candide remains ever the silly optimist, chasing the Baron's daughter around the world and giving Voltaire space to vent against the happy feel-good philosophers with their buzzwords, tautological reasoning, and empty aphorisms. The tutor, for example, demonstrates the "necessity" of syphillus, as having brought chocolate to Europe though "it is to be observed that this malady is, like religious controversy, peculiar to our continent".
Candide is a quick satire, silly and contrived, but we can read it with pleasure 250 later, long after the targets of Voltaire's wit have faded away.
4.0 out of 5 stars Have you ever read Volatire's Candide?,
It says live life at Benny Hill freak out speed.
--- The Bloodhound Gang
Not quite, but on to the review.
Candide may be both difficult and easy for people to read; it's a very quick novel and can be finished within two hours, but the scope of said novel is huge. The protaganist, Candide, is a young German nobleman who experiences many things in a very short period of time; finding love, losing love, finding love, losing lose, finding ugly love, etc. Meanwhile, he experiences earthquakes, storms, whippings, the death of friends and even comes across the fabled city of El Dorado when he happenstances upon the Americas. Candide shouldn't be read for it's character development - it should be read for it's message. One thing I must add is the virulent anti-semitism which is found in this book. Apparently, Voltaire was a strong anti-semite. This discovery greatly lowered my opinion of him.
Still, Candide is a must read for anyone interested in classical literature of important medieval thought.
2.0 out of 5 stars so-so,
This review is from: Candide (Paperback)
I studied philosophy in college. A professor who taught us about Leibniz, theodicy, and similar subjects mentioned Candide to the class. Ten years later, I still am interested in philosophy but with the challenges of career and life in general, I'm interested in readable, not overly long books in philosophy to read. I thought Candide fit the bill. Well, it is very readable and brief. As far as being an entertaining read, it was only so-so. The story moves very quickly but the narration style is very weak. The author tells you that things happened, without showing you. The story is funny occasinally, but as a whole it was a very mediocre read. As philosophy, it makes its main point about the existence of evil (that things do not always work out for the best) very well, but that point is not too difficult to make. Voltaire is a great figure in the intellectual history of the west, but I don't think that a lot of what he wrote is still widely read (Candide is an exception) because the battles he wages (the anti-clerical, pro-scientific, etc.)have been won. So, the end result seems banal and not at all daring, which in its day I imagine it was. If you want to read something to expand your mind or if you want a good literary experience, I would pass.
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine edition of Voltaire and invaluable contextual material,
This review is from: Candide and Related Texts (Paperback)
First off, this new edition of "Candide" has numerous virtues, not the least of which is the amazing erudition invested in the explanatory footnotes that run the length of Voltaire's text. Wootton puts his (and others') knowledge of this masterpiece to good use, and his clarifications are invaluable, helping both to situate Voltaire's thought in the context of his own life and culture, and to resurrect some of the more historically specific humor that has, sadly, been bled away by the last two and a half centuries. Why is it funny, for example, that Voltaire sends his naive protagonist first to the Bulgars? Wootton tells you.
Second, the wealth of contextual material is great for enlarging the reader's understanding of the intellectual climate that Voltaire is critiquing. The Leibniz summary chosen is a bit opaque (small bits of the "Theodicee" would have worked better towards explaining the basics of Leibniz, or at least Voltaire's merciless version of Leibniz), but the portions of Pope and the excerpts of Voltaire's correspondence are enlightening.
The translation is, by and large, very good. We lose a little humor (which always happens in translation), as when the baron's wife is said, due to her weight, to be "regarded as a person of substance" (2); Voltaire here says that, due to her weight, she "s'attirait par là une très grande considération [attracted great consideration]," a wee comical nod to Newtonian physics that must be seen as the first scientific pun of many to come.
This is minor, but another moment of the translation gives me great pause, and, judging from Wootton's impassioned introductory defense of his decision, it must have given him greater pause. Most translations of "Candide" have reliably rendered the famous final lines as "we must cultivate our garden," or something to that effect. Very few have dared omit the word "garden." Wootton delivers it as "we must work our land," and he defends his choice with a well-reasoned appeal to Voltaire's cultural context and correspondence, and claims further that the great symbolic appeal of the "Garden of Eden" image was largely behind the traditional rendering of the line as "we must cultivate our garden." The problem with his defense is not just that Voltaire's line bluntly (and literally) reads "il faut cultiver notre jardin [we must cultivate our garden]," but that the Garden of Eden resonance of which Wootton is so wary is not imported by the reader but rather quite present in "Candide," and even in Wootton's translation of "Candide." When, on page 3 of this translation, Candide is "driven out of the Garden of Eden," he begins a motion that will eventually cycle him back, older and wiser, to a different garden, one drained of religious specificity but not resonance. By tampering with Voltaire's last line, Wootton's translation robs the narrative of its aggressive insistence on this return.
This is fairly nit-picky stuff, though, and any reader can keep the translation difficulties squarely in mind, since Wootton makes--to his credit--no attempt to conceal them. So what you have, in the end, then, is a largely faithful and superbly readable rendition of a work that does not fail, to this day, to make us think, laugh, and feel ashamed. Unpalatable social insitutions like slavery fall under Voltaire's sharp attack, as does the particular cruelty of which organized religion has shown itself capable. The guileless protagonist is back in vogue (see the tributes to Candide in Boyle's "Tortilla Curtain" and Groom's "Forrest Gump"), as candid as ever. For [the price], that's a lot of bang for your buck.
5.0 out of 5 stars CANDIDE - THE TRUE LOVER,
This review is from: Candide (Paperback)
CANDIDE IS ONE THE BEST LOVE STORIES OF ALL TIMES. THE BOOK MADE ME LAUGH, CRY, HATE, BUT MOST ALL LOVE AND SEE THAT TRUE LOVE WILL ALWAYS FIND IT TRUE END. I WAS CAPTURED BY ALL THE CHARACTERS, AND PLACES IN THIS WONDERFUL BOOK. CANDIDE FORBIDDEN LOVE TO MADAME CONGANDE ROYALTY TO THIS COMMONER, CANDIDE. HIS QUEST TO FORGET AND YET BE UNITED TO HIS MOST BELOVED. PROFESSOR PENGLOSS OUT LOOK ON LIFE; THAT WHATEVER HAPPENS IN LIFE IS MEANT TO BE THAT WAY - SETS FORTH THE IDEOLOGY "THAT WE HAVE NO CONTROL OVER OUR DESTINY." COMPARE THAT WITH CONGONDE'S MILITARY BROTHER THAT BELIEVED THAT ONE CAN SET AND CONQUER ONES DESTINY.
CANDIDE SHIPWRECKED EXPERIENCE IN ELDORADO WAS JUST GREAT, SHOWING THAT UTOPIA AND UNITY EXIST SOMEWHERE. BUT ALAS CANDIDE CHOSEN COURSE WAS TO LEAVE THIS PLACE OF PERFECT PEACE AND UNITY AND TO SEEK FOREVER HIS TRUE PEACE AND UNITY, HIS BELOVED MADAME CONGONDE.
THIS IS A MUST READ BOOK SHORT AND SWEET I RATE THIS BOOK A TRUE CLASSIC
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious Irony Amidst Swift-Like Satire,
This review is from: CANDIDE by Voltaire (Hardcover)
Ever since philosophers began thinking about the meaning of life, a favorite question has been "Why do bad things happen to good people?". In Voltaire's day, this issue was primarily pursued either from the perspective of faith (everything that happens is God's will and must be for Divine purpose) or of reason (What do these events mean to you, as you interpret them subjectively?). Infuriated by the reaction by some members of the church to a horrible loss of life from an earthquake in Lisbon, Voltaire wrote this hard-biting satire of the human condition to explore these questions.
Before reading further, let me share a word of caution. This book is filled with human atrocities of the most gruesome sort. Anything that you can imagine could occur in war, an Inquisition, or during piracy happens in this book. If you find such matters distressing (as many will, and more should), this book will be unpleasant reading. You should find another book to read.
The book begins as Candide is raised in the household of a minor noble family in Westphalia, where he is educated by Dr. Pangloss, a student of metaphysical questions. Pangloss believes that this is the best of all possible worlds and deeply ingrains that view into his pupil. Candide is buoyed by that thought as he encounters many setbacks in the course of the book as he travels through many parts of Europe, Turkey, and South America.
All is well for Candide until he falls in love with the Baron's daughter and is caught kissing her hand by the Baron. The Baron immediately kicks Candide out of the castle (literally on the backside), and Candide's wanderings begin. Think of this as being like expulsion from the Garden of Eden for Adam. Soon the penniless Candide finds himself in the Bulgarian army, and receiving lots of beatings while he learns to drill.
The story grows more far-fetched with each subsequent incident. To the casual reader, this exaggeration can seem unnecessary and annoying. It will remind you of the most extreme parts of Swift in Gulliver's Travels and Rabelais in Gargantua and Pantagruel. But subtly, Voltaire is using the exaggeration to lure the reader into making complacent judgments about complacency itself that Voltaire wants to challenge. The result is a deliciously ironical work that undermines complacency at a more fundamental level than I have seen done elsewhere. Basically, Candide challenges any view you have about complacency that is defined in terms of the world-view of those who are complacent.
Significant changes of circumstances (good and ill) occur to all of the members of the Baron's household over the course of the story. Throughout, there is much comparing of who has had the worst luck, with much feeling sorry for oneself.
That is the surface story. Voltaire is, however, a master of misdirection. Beneath the surface, Voltaire has another purpose for the book. He also wants to expose the reader to questioning the many bad habits that people have that make matters worse for everyone. The major themes of these undercurrents are (1) competing rather than to cooperating, (2) employing inhumane means to accomplish worldly (and many spiritual) ends, (3) following expected rules of behavior to show one's superiority over others that harm and degrade others, (4) focusing on money and power rather than creating rich human relationships, (5) hypocritical behavior, and (6) pursuing ends that society approves of rather than ends that please oneself.
By the end of the story, the focus shifts again to a totally different question: How can humans achieve happiness? Then, you have to reassess what you thought about the book and what was going on in Voltaire's story. Many readers will choose to reread the book to better capture Voltaire's perspective on that final question, having been surprised by it.
Candide is one of my favorite books because it treats important philosophical questions in such an unusual way. Such unaccustomed matching of treatment and subject matters leaves an indelible impression that normal philosophical arguments can never match. Voltaire also has an amazing imagination. Few could concoct such a story (even by using illegal substances to stimulate the subconscious mind). I constantly find myself wondering what he will come up with next. The story is so absurd that it penetrates the consciousness at a very fundamental level, almost like doing improvisation. In so doing, Voltaire taps into that feeling of "what else can happen?" that overcomes us when we are at our most pessimistic. So, gradually you will find yourself identifying with the story -- even though nothing like this could ever happen to you. Like a good horror story, you are also relieved that you can read about others' troubles and can put your own into perspective. This last point is the fundamental humanity of the story. You see what a wonderful thing a kind word, a meal, or a helping hand can be. That will probably inspire you to offer those empathic actions more often.
After you have finished Candide, I suggest that you ask yourself where complacency about your life and circumstances is costing you and those you care about the potential for more health, happiness, peace, and prosperity. Then take Voltaire's solution, and look around you for those who enjoy the most of those four wonderful attributes. What do those people think and do differently from you?
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Candide by Voltaire (Paperback - Jan. 1 1991)