Monday, 12 September 2011

Candide by Voltaire

Candide (or Optimism) by Voltaire
First published in 1759 (this edition by Penguin Classics in 1979)

Descriptions (from Goodreads)
A flamboyant and controversial personality of enormous wit and intelligence, Voltaire is one of the most intriguing figures of the eighteenth century Enlightenment. His masterpiece is Candide, a brilliant satire on the theory that 'the world is the best of all possible worlds.' The book traces the picaresque adventures of the guileless Candide, who is forced into the army, flogged, shipwrecked, betrayed, robbed, separated from his beloved Cunegonde, tortured by the Inquisition, etc., all without losing his resilience and will to live.

My thoughts
Candide is another book I can't find myself to rate. I will be honest here and say that the only reason I decided to read this one was so that I can say that sometime in my life I read Voltaire! But when I got round to reading the first couple of pages, I realised that the names of some of the characters reminded me of something; that I had heard of them before. (I still can't remember where...!)

Candide is essentially a satire; a story full of irony, sarcasm, exaggeration and parody, that is meant to sound funny, but it usually has an underlying message - to offer constructive criticism using wit as a weapon (thank you Wikipedia). That is exactly what Candide is and I can understand why the book is also known as Optimism. Candide is the main character and he seems to be as backbone-less as can be. He just seems to accept everything that he is told, regardless of who the person telling him is. Essentially, he does not seem to have any free will of his own, or any particular skills; he goes through life by listening to others. And he is very shallow.

So, the other characters are essential to the progression of the story, as Candide on his own wouldn't have done much. As for the story itself, before reading it, you cannot imagine how many bad things happen to the characters in this book! Abductions, killings, rape, theft, just to name a few. But even still, Candide does not let all the bad events make him less happy about life. He lives by the motto that 'everything bad happens for a reason'. Which I suppose is a very good motto to live by, but not when absolutely nothing good ever happens to you.

The philosophy that this book is based on is brilliantly presented by Voltaire. It is rather obvious that he thinks the philosophy is ridiculous, and throughout the book, he shows us just that. But even though it is rather philosophical, it doesn't get tiring when you're reading it, which I find great when I'm reading anything about philosophy.

Rating: N/A (Again, I don't feel like I can rate it - I mean, it is Voltaire)

Fran├žois-Marie Arouet, better known by his pen name Voltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion and free trade. 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 and 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. (from Wikipedia)

Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011


  1. Even though Voltaire is kind of mocking those hopeless optimists, I kind of like them. Cause sometimes a whole buncha bad crap does just happen to you, and it's all about how you handle it. This was a good book, I feel like I should go re-read it now. Great review :)

  2. Philosophy bores you? Just the statement 'the world is the best of all possible worlds' is interesting to me. I'd never read this book or even heard of Voltaire (yes, I know, shocking) before you told me about him, but having read your review, it seems I should :)

    Great review :)


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