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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 Cause for optimism?,
This review is from: Candide (Paperback)
I thought that "Candide" was a very enjoyable read. It's much more than a satire, it's a reflective novel in which Voltaire opens up various timeless issues for discussion. The central theme is whether or not the optimism (or naivity) of Dr Pangloss's views hold up when faced with the bleak realities of everyday existence. It doesn't really matter that much of the satirical bite of the novel must have been lost due to the passage of time, when it can still deal with issues such as theodisy in an entertaining way.
Voltaire sends the innocent and impressionable Candide on what amounts to a world tour (or as near to it as makes no difference). The reader has to put up with outrageous coincidences and improbabilities: I felt that Voltaire was using such devices deliberately to amuse the reader. Candide experiences various adventures and meets (often more than once) a collection of exotic characters. His travails eventually cause him to question his teacher Pangloss's value system. But really, Voltaire throws various philosophical problems at the reader and invites a reaction - often this is done with a fine wit.
All in all, a pleasure - the more so because it's a surprising one.
4.0 out of 5 stars Still Interesting Today,
Candide is basically Voltaire's criticism of the idea of optimism. Optimism in the 18th century did not have the same meaning as it does today. Back then, it was the belief that ours is the best of all possible worlds, since it is G-d's world and G-d is perfect. Voltaire takes a naive adherent to this belief and exposes him to the horrors of the world: war, enslavement, theft, rape, heartbreak, etc. Not only does Candide experience these things himself but he hears everyone else bemoaning their situations. Perhaps the crushing blow is when Candide accidentally discovers the paradise of El Dorado, only to willingly leave and face the problems of the real world yet again.
I will not reveal how the story ends, but I liked how it turned out. In my opinion, Voltaire does a good job of criticizing optimism, and he isn't afraid to take some more personal cuts at some of his philisophical opponents. The beauty of this story is that Voltaire accomplishes most of it through humor. Undoubtably it would have been funnier to an 18th century reader (I did not understand many of the religious references--and I still don't know what the Jesuits believe in) but I think I got most of the jokes.
So, all in all, I give this a 4/5 for a story that still has value today.
5.0 out of 5 stars A quick, yet powerful read,
This review is from: Candide (Paperback)
I first read "Candide" when I was still in HS, around 4 or 5 years ago. Maybe it was because I was forced to read it for a class, but I really didn't "get it" back then. Having some free time while I waited for my next amazon.com book order to arrive, I decided to pick up "Candide" once again. This time around, my experience was much more enlightening.
"Candide" revolves around the title character, who has had it instilled upon him by Dr. Pangloss, his personal philosopher, that we live in the "best of all possible worlds." After seeing Pangloss fooling around with the chambermaid, Candide decided to replicate the acts with the Lady Cunegonde. After being discovered by the Baron, Candide is swiftly kicked (on his rump) out of Westphalia. This sets into motion a long and unbelievable set of events. Candide travels across half the known world in hopes of once again being reunited with Lady Cunegonde. Calamity upon calmity is witnessed by Candide yet he remains steadfast in his belief that everything works out for the best. To fully understand the insanity that marks this book you have to read it for yourself. I would do it an injustice it by saying anything further. I will say that the ending is quite a change of pace from the rest of the book.
Although it isn't hard to discern that this story is wholy unrealistic, it is written in such a way that you feel it is somewhat plausible. This might stem from the fact that our society has done a 180 and is composed mainly of cynics and pessimists. Although it was written around 250 years ago, many of the basic issues that Voltaire attacks are still around today. While we don't have the Inquisition murdering people today, religious intolerance is still deep rooted in many humans.
There are many reasons I so highly recommend this book. It is a quick read, something you can finish in only a couple hours. It also has several fantastical scenes that will leave you chuckling in disbelief. Finally, it is a good book to see exactly how much our world (at least the Western half) has changed.
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!
5.0 out of 5 stars Voltaire's Amusing Intellectual Masterpiece,
By A Customer
This review is from: Candide (Paperback)
"Candide," subtitled "Optimism" and purporting to be "translated from the German of Doctor Ralph with the additions which were found in the Doctor's pocket when he died at [the Battle of] Minden in the Year of Our Lord 1759," is the single work of Voltaire that continues to be read and recognized as a canonical work of Western literature. A mere seventy-five pages long, it is an amusing and, at times, cruel book that satirically lays waste to many philosophical ideas of its time while simultaneously illuminating the mind, the temperament and the personal conflicts of its author, a man who, perhaps more than any other, came to define the intellectual spirit of eighteenth century France.
At its most abstract level, "Candide" examines the age-old question of why a supposedly omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent god would create a world so afflicted with evil and suffering. This question particularly troubled Voltaire following the great Lisbon earthquake and fire in November 1755, which killed as many as forty thousand people.
Hence, in the very first page of "Candide," the reader encounters one of literature's most famous characters, Pangloss, the learned tutor of Candide, who "gave instruction in metaphysico-theologico-cosmoloonigology." Echoing the popularizers of Leibniz, the early eighteenth century German philosopher, Pangloss espouses the notion that there cannot be cause without effect, that we live in the best of all possible worlds:
"It is clear, said he, that things cannot be otherwise than they are, for since everything is made to serve an end, everything necessarily serves the best end. Observe: noses were made to support spectacles, hence we have spectacles. Legs, as anyone can plainly see, were made to be breeched, and so we have breeches. Stones were made to be shaped and to build castles with; thus My Lord has a fine castle, for the greatest Baron in the province should have the finest house; and since pigs were made to be eaten, we eat pork all year round. Consequently, those who say everything is well are uttering mere stupidities; they should say everything is for the best."
From the introduction of this philosophical idea, Voltaire proceeds to narrate a dizzying tale (really, a series of tales, like Chinese boxes or Russian dolls or the Arabian Nights) of the adventures of Candide, Cunegonde, Pangloss, Cacambo, and a host of other characters, adventures that include war, torture, dismemberment, and death and utterly confound any claim that we live in the best of all possible worlds. At the same time Voltaire satirically challenges certain prevailing ideas, however, he also introduces a plethora of personal, political and historical references, thereby making "Candide" a sort of literary and intellectual cornucopia of Voltaire's thought. In the words of Robert Adams, the able translator and editor of the Norton Critical Edition of the work, "'Candide' is at the same time a novel of abstract ideas with long, complex histories and a highly personal book, into which Voltaire poured an immense amount of himself-his experiences, his enmities, his learning, his desires, his anguish."
The Norton Critical Edition of "Candide" contains extensive and useful background materials on the text, including valuable discussions of the philosophical ideas adumbrated in Voltaire's tale and excerpts from critical studies, books and letters that have been published over the years since the book was written. Among these materials, "Gestation: 'Candide' Assembling Itself", an excerpt from Haydn Mason's 1975 book on Voltaire, is particularly useful in understanding the context in which Voltaire wrote, including the effect that the catastrophe in Lisbon and the Seven Years' War had on his thinking.
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.
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Candide by Voltaire (Paperback - Jan. 1 1991)