12 December 2011


Ok, so this book is not my normal read but I'm really glad I read it. After a few drinks with some work people, two of us decided on a book swap. I got Voltaire, while my colleague got Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Not really sure who fared better in this swap! Anyway, as I wouldn't consider myself a big  intellect or philosopher, I'm going to keep my review on this one short...

Candide (or l'Optimisme)
Author: Voltaire
Series: No, standalone
Publisher: Dover Publications
Release date: 1759
Genre: Classics, Satire

Candide is 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.

Review: For a short novella, a whole lot happens. Candide is whipped, robbed, enslaved, loses his love, finds her, loses her again, travels across the world and finds El Dorado. Despite the many misfortunes he suffers and struggling to maintain his optimism, Candide still refers back to Dr Pangloss and his entreaty that we live in the best of all possible worlds. Voltair is undoubtedly mocking Leibniz's philosophical principle that "all for is the best". Despite being written over two hundred years ago, the main points are still relevant to our own lives and the way we view them.

Candide is crammed full of political and religious references, which as a modern day reader would have completely slipped my notice had it not been for the footnotes. Back in Voltaire's time however the references would have been very poignant and certainly controversial, particularly as many were scathing comments of social figures, heads of states, and critics of his work. It's not surprising he ended up imprisoned in the Bastille on two occasions!

Candide is a quick read filled with misadventure and misfortune, humorous characters, satire and wit, and thought provoking depth.

Rating: 3.5*


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