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Candide Paperback – September 11, 2017
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Political satire doesn't age well, but occasionally a diatribe contains enough art and universal mirth to survive long after its timeliness has passed. Candide is such a book. Penned by that Renaissance man of the Enlightenment, Voltaire, Candide is steeped in the political and philosophical controversies of the 1750s. But for the general reader, the novel's driving principle is clear enough: the idea (endemic in Voltaire's day) that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and apparent folly, misery and strife are actually harbingers of a greater good we cannot perceive, is hogwash.
Telling the tale of the good-natured but star-crossed Candide (think Mr. Magoo armed with deadly force), as he travels the world struggling to be reunited with his love, Lady Cunegonde, the novel smashes such ill-conceived optimism to splinters. Candide's tutor, Dr. Pangloss, is steadfast in his philosophical good cheer, in the face of more and more fantastic misfortune; Candide's other companions always supply good sense in the nick of time. Still, as he demolishes optimism, Voltaire pays tribute to human resilience, and in doing so gives the book a pleasant indomitability common to farce. Says one character, a princess turned one-buttocked hag by unkind Fate: "I have wanted to kill myself a hundred times, but somehow I am still in love with life. This ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our most melancholy propensities; for is there anything more stupid than to be eager to go on carrying a burden which one would gladly throw away, to loathe one's very being and yet to hold it fast, to fondle the snake that devours us until it has eaten our hearts away?"--Michael Gerber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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, naïve 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
Top customer reviews
Candide tells the story of "a young boy (illegitimate like Voltaire) on whom nature had bestowed the gentlest of dispositions. His countenance expressed his soul. He combined solid judgement with complete openness of mind; which is the reason, I believe, that he was called Candide." The picaresque novel follows the adventures and tribulations of Candide through the world.
In the very fist chapter, he is kicked out of the Westphalian castle of Monsieur the Baron von Thunder-ten-tron for kissing his true love, the 17 year-old daughter of the Baron and Baroness--the beautiful Cunegonde.
Dr. Pangloss, who is Candide's tutor, "could prove to wonderful effect that there was no effect without cause, and that, in this best of all possible worlds, his Lordship the Baron's castle was the finest of castles and Her ladyship the best of all possible baronesses." Pangloss is an optimist. Through the Pangloss character Voltaire satirizes the Leibnizian doctrine that this is the best of all possible worlds. Leibniz argued that an omnipotent and benevolent God could not have created a world that was anything other than the best of all possible worlds.
Moreover, Pangloss is a Utopian socialist who parrots Rousseau's Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, 1755. After her jewels and money are stolen, Cunegonde asks, "'What shall we live on? How will we manage?'...'The good Pangloss often demonstrated to me,' said Candide with a sigh, 'that the things of this world are common to all men, and that everyone has an equal right to them.'"
The remainder of the book demonstrates the folly of Pangloss' s philosophy. It ultimately becomes a disquisition on the nature of evil. How can the reality of evil in the world be reconciled with the existence of a divine and omnipotent creator?
This is simply one of my favorite books of all time.
Christopher Kelly is the author of America Invades: How We've Invaded or been Militarily Involved with almost Every Country on Earth and Italy Invades.
Voltaire rips on the aristocracies around the world (not just French!), religion, ignorance and male-dominance; and uplifts liberty, freedom of thought and speech and the scientific method by a "series of unfortunate events" that the protagonist goes through. His subtle wit and satire leave a much stronger mark on the reader than the contemporary empty, loud and goofy comedies. The stories are not just philosophical rants about the author's opinion, rather he exposes the weaker sides of the era's social/religious beliefs, and leaves the interpretation and "moral of the story" to the reader.
If you are looking for a hearty laugh, that is also intellectually stimulating, I strongly recommend this book.