Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Book Review of Candide by Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire
Author: Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire
Publisher: Norton Company
Type of book: Around the world, satire, 1600s-1700s, love, religion, philosophy
Year it was published: 1759
Candide, ou l'Optimisme ( /ˌkænˈdiːd/; French: [kɑ̃did]) is a French satire first published in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. The novella has been widely translated, with English versions titled Candide: or, All for the Best (1759); Candide: or, The Optimist (1762); and Candide: or, Optimism (1947). It begins with a young man, Candide, who is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with Leibnizian optimism (or simply Optimism) by his mentor, Pangloss. The work describes the abrupt cessation of this lifestyle, followed by Candide's slow, painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire concludes with Candide, if not rejecting optimism outright, advocating an enigmatic precept, "we must cultivate our garden", in lieu of the Leibnizian mantra of Pangloss, "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds".
Candide is characterised by its sarcastic tone, as well as by its erratic, fantastical and fast-moving plot. A picaresque novel with a story similar to that of a more serious bildungsroman, it parodies many adventure and romance clichés, the struggles of which are caricatured in a tone that is mordantly matter-of-fact. Still, the events discussed are often based on historical happenings, such as the Seven Years' War and the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. As philosophers of Voltaire's day contended with the problem of evil, so too does Candide in this short novel, albeit more directly and humorously. Voltaire ridicules religion, theologians, governments, armies, philosophies, and philosophers through allegory; most conspicuously, he assaults Leibniz and his optimism.
As expected by Voltaire, Candide has enjoyed both great success and great scandal. Immediately after its secretive publication, the book was widely banned because it contained religious blasphemy, political sedition and intellectual hostility hidden under a thin veil of naïveté. However, with its sharp wit and insightful portrayal of the human condition, the novel has since inspired many later authors and artists to mimic and adapt it. Today, Candide is recognised as Voltaire's magnum opus and is often listed as part of the Western canon; it is arguably taught more than any other work of French literature.
The novel isn't very character oriented, although the characters tend to be stock characters and the latter half of the novel with Martin and Candide are arguing of positive vs. negative of the world. There isn't any depth to the characters; everything is simplistic and straightforward.
Despite all unhappiness, its best to settle for second best.
In an odd way its a straightforward plot and motivation, that of Candide trying to be and live with his beloved woman, yet the emotions are incredibly exagerrated with him; he worships the philosopher and sees no wrong with him; no matter what he stays with the lady and always sees the best in any situation no matter what, creating naive situation. There are twists and turns to the tale, always absurdness and surprises. The tale teases the senses and is strangely high class and enjoyable.
François-Marie Arouet (French pronunciation: [fʁɑ̃.swa ma.ʁi aʁ.wɛ]; 21 November 1694 – 30 May 1778), better known by his nom de plume Voltaire (pronounced: [vɔl.tɛːʁ]), was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, freedom of expression, free trade and separation of church and state. Voltaire was a prolific writer, producing works in almost every literary form, including plays, poetry, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works. He wrote more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets. He was an outspoken supporter of social reform, despite strict censorship laws with harsh penalties for those who broke them. As a satirical polemicist, he frequently made use of his works to criticize intolerance, religious dogma and the French institutions of his day.
Voltaire was one of several Enlightenment figures (along with Montesquieu, John Locke, Richard Price, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Émilie du Châtelet) whose works and ideas influenced important thinkers of both the American and French Revolutions.
I never understood the love that many people hold towards Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Perhaps younger audience are delighted by it, but the message is never clear for me. I hadn't read the famous Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, but I would guess that I wouldn't like it. I don't have tradition of enjoying British literature. But still, despite a few anti-Jewish remarks, the beginning of it was funny and hilarious, also unexpected. I enjoyed reading it a great deal, although I didn't understand it.
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)