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Candide: Or Optimism (Penguin Classics) Paperback – June 30, 1950

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Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

CHAPTER I



How Candide was brought up in a beautiful castle, and how he was driven from it.



In the castle of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh in Westphalia, there once lived a youth endowed by nature with the gentlest of characters. His soul was revealed in his face. He combined rather sound judgment with great simplicity of mind; it was for this reason, I believe, that he was given the name of Candide. The old servants of the household suspected that he was the son of the baron's sister by a good and honorable gentleman of the vicinity, whom this lady would never marry because he could prove only seventy-one generations of nobility, the rest of his family tree having been lost, owing to the ravages of time.

The baron was one of the most powerful lords in Westphalia, for his castle had a door and windows. Its hall was even adorned with a tapestry. The dogs in his stable yards formed a hunting pack when necessary, his grooms were his huntsmen, and the village curate was his chaplain. They all called him "My Lord" and laughed when he told stories.

The baroness, who weighed about three hundred fifty pounds, thereby winning great esteem, did the honors of the house with a dignity that made her still more respectable. Her daughter Cunegonde, aged seventeen, was rosy-cheeked, fresh, plump and alluring. The baron's son appeared to be worthy of his father in every way. The tutor Pangloss was the oracle of the household, and young Candide listened to his teachings with all the good faith of his age and character.

Pangloss taught metaphysico-theologo-cosmonigology. He proved admirably that in this best of all possible worlds, His Lordship's castle was the most beautiful of castles, and Her Ladyship the best of all possible baronesses.

"It is demonstrated," he said, "that things cannot be otherwise: for, since everything was made for a purpose, everything is necessarily for the best purpose. Note that noses were made to wear spectacles; we therefore have spectacles. Legs were clearly devised to wear breeches, and we have breeches. Stones were created to be hewn and made into castles; His Lordship therefore has a very beautiful castle: the greatest baron in the province must have the finest residence. And since pigs were made to be eaten, we eat pork all year round. Therefore, those who have maintained that all is well have been talking nonsense: they should have maintained that all is for the best."

Candide listened attentively and believed innocently, for he found Lady Cunegonde extremely beautiful, although he was never bold enough to tell her so. He concluded that, after the good fortune of having been born Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh, the second greatest good fortune was to be Lady Cunegonde; the third, to see her every day; and the fourth, to listen to Dr. Pangloss, the greatest philosopher in the province, and therefore in the whole world.

One day as Cunegonde was walking near the castle in the little wood known as "the park," she saw Dr. Pangloss in the bushes, giving a lesson in experimental physics to her mother's chambermaid, a very pretty and docile little brunette. Since Lady Cunegonde was deeply interested in the sciences, she breathlessly observed the repeated experiments that were performed before her eyes. She clearly saw the doctor's sufficient reason, and the operation of cause and effect. She then returned home, agitated and thoughtful, reflecting that she might be young Candide's sufficient reason, and he hers.

On her way back to the castle she met Candide. She blushed, and so did he. She greeted him in a faltering voice, and he spoke to her without knowing what he was saying. The next day, as they were leaving the table after dinner, Cunegonde and Candide found themselves behind a screen. She dropped her handkerchief, he picked it up; she innocently took his hand, and he innocently kissed hers with extraordinary animation, ardor and grace; their lips met, their eyes flashed, their knees trembled, their hands wandered. Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh happened to pass by the screen; seeing this cause and effect, he drove Candide from the castle with vigorous kicks in the backside. Cunegonde fainted. The baroness slapped her as soon as she revived, and consternation reigned in the most beautiful and agreeable of all possible castles.



CHAPTER II



What happened to Candide among the Bulgars.



After being driven from his earthly paradise, Candide walked for a long time without knowing where he was going, weeping, raising his eyes to heaven, looking back often toward the most beautiful of castles, which contained the most beautiful of young baronesses. He lay down without eating supper, between two furrows in an open field; it was snowing in large flakes. The next day, chilled to the bone, he dragged himself to the nearest town, whose name was Waldberghofftrarbk-dikdorff. Penniless, dying of hunger and fatigue, he stopped sadly in front of an inn. Two men dressed in blue1 noticed him.

"Comrade," said one of them, "there's a well-built young man who's just the right height."

They went up to Candide and politely asked him to dine with them.

"Gentlemen," said Candide with charming modesty, "I'm deeply honored, but I have no money to pay my share."

"Ah, sir," said one of the men in blue, "people of your appearance and merit never pay anything: aren't you five feet five?"

"Yes, gentlemen, that's my height," he said, bowing.

"Come, sir, sit down. We'll not only pay for your dinner, but we'll never let a man like you be short of money. Men were made only to help each other."

"You're right," said Candide, "that's what Dr. Pangloss always told me, and I see that all is for the best."

They begged him to accept a little money; he took it and offered to sign a note for it, but they would not let him. They all sat down to table.

"Don't you dearly love--"

"Oh, yes!" answered Candide. "I dearly love Lady Cunegonde."

"No," said one of the men, "we want to know if you dearly love the King of the Bulgars."

"Not at all," said Candide, "because I've never seen him."

"What! He's the most charming of kings, and we must drink to his health."

"Oh, I'll be glad to, gentlemen!"

And he drank.

"That's enough," he was told, "you're now the support, the upholder, the defender and the hero of the Bulgars: your fortune is made and your glory is assured."

They immediately put irons on his legs and took him to a regiment. He was taught to make right and left turns, raise and lower the ramrod, take aim, fire, and march double time, and he was beaten thirty times with a stick. The next day he performed his drills a little less badly and was given only twenty strokes; the following day he was given only ten, and his fellow soldiers regarded him as a prodigy.

Candide, utterly bewildered, still could not make out very clearly how he was a hero. One fine spring day he decided to take a stroll; he walked straight ahead, believing that the free use of the legs was a privilege of both mankind and the animals. He had not gone five miles when four other heroes, all six feet tall, overtook him, bound him, brought him back and put him in a dungeon. With proper legal procedure, he was asked which he would prefer, to be beaten thirty-six times by the whole regiment, or to receive twelve bullets in his brain. It did him no good to maintain that man's will is free and that he wanted neither: he had to make a choice. Using the gift of God known as freedom, he decided to run the gauntlet thirty-six times, and did so twice. The regiment was composed of two thousand men, so his punishment was so far composed of four thousand strokes, which had laid bare every muscle and nerve from his neck to his backside. As they were preparing for a third run, Candide, unable to go on, begged them to blow his brains out instead. The favor was granted; he was blindfolded and made to kneel. Just then the King of the Bulgars came by and inquired about the condemned man's crime. Being a highly intelligent king, he realized from what he was told that Candide was a young metaphysician, utterly ignorant of worldly matters, and pardoned him with a clemency that will be praised in all newspapers and all ages. A worthy surgeon healed Candide in three weeks with the emollients prescribed by Dioscorides. He already had a little skin, and was able to walk, when the King of the Bulgars joined battle with the King of the Avars.



CHAPTER III



How Candide escaped from the Bulgars,

and what happened to him.



Nothing could have been more splendid, brilliant, smart or orderly than the two armies. The trumpets, fifes, oboes, drums and cannons produced a harmony whose equal was never heard in hell. First the cannons laid low about six thousand men on each side, then rifle fire removed from the best of worlds about nine or ten thousand scoundrels who had been infesting its surface. The bayonet was also the sufficient reason for the death of several thousand men. The total may well have risen to thirty thousand souls. Candide, trembling like a philosopher, hid himself as best he could during this heroic carnage.

Finally, while the two kings were having Te Deums sung, each in his own camp, Candide decided to go elsewhere to reason about cause and effect. He made his way over heaps of dead and dying men until he came to a nearby village. It was in ashes, for it was an Avar village which the Bulgars had burned in accordance with international law. Old men with wounds all over their bodies were watching the death throes of butchered women who clutched their children to their bloody breasts; girls who had been disemboweled after satisfying the natural needs of several heroes were breathing their last sighs; others, mortally burned, were shrieking for someone to hasten their death. The ground was strewn with brains and severed arms and legs.

Candide fled to another village as fast as he could: it belonged to the Bulgars, and the Avar heroes had treated it in the same manner. Still walking over quivering limbs, or through ruins, he finally emerged from the theater of war, carrying a little food in his sack and never forgetting Lady Cunegonde. His food ran out when he reached Holland, but since he had heard that everyone was rich in that country, and that the people were Christians, he did not doubt that he would be treated as well there as he had been in the baron's castle before he had been driven away from it because of Lady Cunegonde's lovely eyes.

He asked alms of several solemn individuals who all replied that if he continued to ply that trade he would be shut up in a house of correction to teach him better manners.

Next he approached a man who had just spoken about charity for a whole hour in front of a large assembly. This orator scowled at him and said, "What are you doing here? Are you for the good cause?"

"There is no effect without a cause," replied Candide modestly. "All things are necessarily connected and arranged for the best. I had to be driven away from Lady Cunegonde, I had to run the gauntlet, and I have to beg my bread until I can earn it; all that could not have been otherwise."

"My friend," said the orator, "do you believe that the Pope is the Antichrist?"

"I've never heard anyone say so," answered Candide, "but whether he is or not, I still have nothing to eat."

"You don't deserve to eat," said the orator. "Go, you scoundrel, you wretch, and never come near me again!"

The orator's wife, having looked out the window and seen a man who doubted that the Pope was the Antichrist, poured on his head the contents of a full . . . O heaven! To what excesses are ladies driven by religious zeal!

A man who had not been baptized, a good Anabaptist by the name of James, witnessed this cruel and ignominious treatment of one of his fellow men, a featherless biped who had a soul; he took him to his home, washed him, served him bread and beer, made him a gift of two florins and even offered to teach him to work for him in the manufacture of those Persian fabrics that are produced in Holland. Candide almost threw himself at his feet. "Dr. Pangloss was right when he told me that all is for the best in this world," he said, "because your extreme generosity has moved me much more deeply than the harshness of that gentleman in the black cloak and his wife."

The next day, as he was taking a walk he met a beggar covered with sores; his eyes were lifeless, the tip of his nose had been eaten away, his mouth was twisted, his teeth were black, his voice was hoarse, he was racked by a violent cough, and he spat out a tooth with every spasm.



CHAPTER IV



How Candide met his former philosophy teacher, Dr. Pangloss, and what ensued.



Candide, moved even more by compassion than by horror, gave this appalling beggar the two florins he had received from James, the worthy Anabaptist. The apparition stared at him, shed tears and threw his arms around his neck. Candide drew back in terror.

"Alas," said one pauper to the other, "don't you recognize your dear Pangloss?"

"What are you saying! You, my dear master! You, in this horrible condition! What misfortune has befallen you? Why are you no longer in the most beautiful of castles? What has become of Lady Cunegonde, the pearl of young ladies, the masterpiece of nature?"

"I'm at the end of my strength," said Pangloss.

Candide immediately took him to the Anabaptist's stable, where he gave him a little bread to eat, and when he had revived he said to him, "Well, what about Cunegonde?"

"She's dead," replied Pangloss.

Candide fainted at this word; his friend brought him back to consciousness with some bad vinegar that happened to be in the stable. Candide opened his eyes and said, "Cunegonde is dead! Oh, best of all possible worlds, where are you? But what did she die of? Was it from seeing me kicked out of the beautiful castle by her father?"

"No," said Pangloss, "she was disemboweled by Bulgar soldiers after having been raped as much as a woman can be. They smashed the baron's head when he tried to defend her, the baroness was hacked to pieces, and my poor pupil was treated exactly the same as his sister. As for the castle, not one stone was left standing on another; there's not one barn left, not one sheep, not one duck, not one tree. But we were well avenged, because the Avars did the same thing to a nearby estate that belonged to a Bulgar lord." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From AudioFile

CANDIDE, Voltaire's 1759 novel, resembles in some ways an old Warner Bros. cartoon--in its frantic pace and zest, its wit and sarcasm, its target audience of adults, and its characters' inability to be killed by the most ghastly violence. When Dr. Pangloss proudly recounts the pedigree of the syphilis that rots him away (he traces the virus back to Columbus's sailors), Neville Jason slurps his syllables in a wonderfully cartoony way. On the whole, Jason performs this classic with the required straight face (or voice), which conforms to Voltaire's aim of using the wide-eyed, na��ve Candide and the matter-of-fact narration to mask a philosophical work about suffering and human evil. ZADIG, Voltaire's 1749 novel of comparable length, lives in the shadow of CANDIDE but is also especially accessible in Jason's reading. G.H. © AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (June 30, 1950)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140440046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140440041
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (458 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 28, 2000
Format: 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.
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Format: Paperback
No the story doesn't change from edition to edition, but the supplementary material provided does change. Candide isn't just some hectic adventure story. It really fails as literature in this regard, and certainly Voltaire's purpose was not to make you chuckle while you whiled away a few empty hours. He would weep to think that you missed out on what he was really trying to tell you. Rest easy. I am not going to launch into a stuffy monologue on Leibnitz and 18th century French Catholicism, but in essence you should know that this is the essence of the story. The philosopher Leibnitz (who with Isaac Newton independently invented Calculus) explained the existence of evil in the world thusly: God, in his infinite wisdom, thought of all possible worlds that he could create, and he chose this one; therefore this must be the best of all possible worlds. Voltaire was also continually chastising the Catholic Church for it's lack of tolerance of other beliefs, and for its aristocratic pomp.
Enter now the Norton Critical Edition of Candide. This book presents the 75 page story along with 130 additional pages of various articles and essays on the times in which it was written; commentary by Voltaire and by his contemporaries; and critiques of the story by modern writers. Sure there are always a few dull, academic essays making their mandatory appearance in a book like this, but my suggestion is just to skip them. After all there are a lot of them to choose from.
Learn the story behind the story so to speak. After all it is the background of Candide that makes Candide the forceful satire that it is.
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Format: Paperback
It is probably fair to say that there is no book that is quite like Voltaire's 'Candide'. This is a venomous satire of the 'Optimistic' philosophy and outlook of enlightenment thinkers such as Leibniz and Alexander Pope. As such, it is served well by the unique combination of repeated brutality and a deft, light touch. If that last comment doesn't make sense, then you'll just have to READ THE BOOK.
At a mere 144 pages (in this edition), this is a classic that is a breeze to read. As to the charge that this book is too "violent" or "in bad taste", I would only ask you to remember that Voltaire was furious that learned members of a "civilized" society (like Leibniz, Pope, and even Rousseau)could claim that the apparent senseless violence and mayhem wrought by disasters, war, disease, man's cruelty, etc. was actually only a part of some 'greater good' - after all, God (being perfect) could not 'logically' created anything but the 'best of all possible' universes.
Voltaire's touch is so light and understated that I defy anyone to write anything that contains a third of the violence in 'Candide' and still manages to read as breezily and somehow be genuinely funny.
But dark satire must be funny - otherwise it lapses into pedantry.
Read it - even if you do not like it, I guarantee you that it will disturb you and make you think.
And for that, we can thank Voltaire.
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Format: Hardcover
This book has the title "Candide and other stories", but the exciting part is the other stories. Yes "Candide" is a great work and perhaps the best satircal work of the 18th century, but it alone does not do justice to Voltaire's genius.
Like a lot of people I had read "Candide" years ago for school and was impressed with the work. However, I soon forgot about it and never really thought about Voltaire's other works. As I was browsing Amazon one day I saw this book and thought it was time to revisit this old friend. Boy was I lucky.
Three of the "other stories" are every bit as good as "Candide". "Micromegas" is a fine SciFi work from the 1740's. It comes complete with a Saturnian and Syrian and relates their struggle to understand the Earth's philosophies. "Zadig" unfolds in a similar manner to "Candide" but may be even more biting. Finally "The Ingenu" holds special interest for Americans as it chronicles the problems encountered by a young Huron "Savage" as he relocates to "Civilized" France. The final story "The White Bull" is not in the same class as the rest of the works in this book, but still is a fun read.
It was nice to see my old friend "Candide", but even nicer to meet the new friends that are here. If you are considering buying one of the other copies which have only "Candide" the extra works here make this version so much richer.
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