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Candide [Norton Critical Edition, 2nd ed.]

af Voltaire

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The accompanying apparatus has been revised in accordance with recent biographical and critical materials. The Backgrounds and Criticism sections provide important essays that shed light on major critical issues relevant to Candide and to the intellectual climate of the period. In addition to the reports of five English visitors to Ferney, essays by Haydn Mason, Erich Auerbach, Ernst Cassirer, and Robert M. Adams are included. The final section of the edition, "The Climate of Controversy," summarizes the debate surrounding Voltaire's works and includes essays by Peter Gay, Raymond Naves, Gustave Lanson, and John Morley. Also included are a series of quotations about Voltaire by such prominent figures as Gustave Flaubert, Frederick the Great, and Stendhal, as well as the text of "Pangloss's Song," a ballad from the 1956 Candide-based operetta by Richard Wilbur.… (mere)
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Candide, one of Voltaire's most popular works, is a sociopolitical satire in which the author uses the misadventures of the book's titular hero to argue against the philosophy of Leibnizian optimism. The gullible and naive Candide suffers through repeated misfortunes, often inspired by real historic events (Seven Years' War, Lisbon Earthquake), organizations (Jesuit Order, Portuguese Inquisition), individuals (Admiral John Bying, Abbe Trublet), and even the mythical land of El Dorado.

This novella is bildungsroman coming-of-age narrative, and while many people compare it to Gulliver's Travels due to the scope and variety of Candide's travels, I was personally reminded of Samuel the Speaker by Upton Sinclair, which also features a young man whose world philosophy is constantly contradicted by the world itself. The

Personally, my favorite companion of Candide's is the Manichaean scholar Martin, whose level-headed pessimistic view of mankind as a world full of idiots drives his frequent recommendations of throwing people out of windows and into oceans.

Candide is fast-based and unrelenting, an epic journey in novella form full of black humor and theological debate as it tackles the concept of good versus evil and the nature of mankind. ( )
  smichaelwilson | Jan 17, 2020 |
Reading this as a grown-ass philosophy-woman is considerably more rewarding than it was when I read (and enjoyed) it in high school. Its cynicism about the Leibnizian proposition--that we exist in "the best of all possible worlds"--is as pertinent today as it was in 1759. In a sense, Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign relied (and traded) on a Candide-like empty optimism which belied the true pessimism of enormous swathes of the American populace. ( )
  reganrule | Oct 24, 2017 |
i think i would have to read this one about five times to fully understand what's going on. Yet, i did really enjoy the sentiment of the ending. ( )
  mawls | Apr 4, 2013 |
I'm guessing most people read this because of some kind of educational purpose. I read this because of Kristin Chenoweth. She starred as Cunegonde in Bernstein's Candide operetta for PBS and is one of my favorite performers. I loved the operetta (and I'm not anywhere close to an opera buff) - found it quite hilarious, in fact. So, I decided I wanted to read the original to see how it differed.

Thanks to the helpful footnotes in this translation, I quite enjoyed the classic. Yes, in comparison to the operetta, it differs on several levels, but I found it just as interesting and perhaps more so given the historical context and notes about Voltaire's personal issues with many of the figures he pokes fun at.

It's quite philosophical in nature - picking on several world theories of the time, with religion and politics as targets, too. I won't pretend to understand every level of this satire, but got the gist with Adams' notes. The story itself is ridiculous with people killed and then popping back to life and the main character a simpleton who doubts but continues to believe what he has been taught by an educator who at one point even (if memory serves) says himself that he no longer believes it: That this is the best of all possible worlds and everything that happens is for the best.

At one point, Candide even finds himself in El Dorado, which he begins to believe must be the real 'best world' as everyone is happy (partly because money - gold and jewels - is so commonplace as to have no value)...yet, he decides to leave to search for Cunegonde, the love of his life. He is the first person to ever find El Dorado and then want to leave.

So, he continues to travel and be cheated and have hardships, but his search for his beloved continues. I don't want to give away the ending, although I'll say it's a bit different from Bernstein's.

At a quick 95 pages (without all the histories and extra information provided), Candide is worth a read if you enjoy humor and history. If you want the 'light' version and still would like some humor, get your hands on the PBS concert presentation of Bernstein's operetta. ( )
  horomnizon | Jul 25, 2012 |
"We live in the best of all possible worlds" was the answer to theodicy posed by Gottfried Leibniz. God hasn't unnecessarily let bad things happen (then God wouldn't be good), and it's not that God was unable to stop them (then God's not all-powerful). Instead God has this grand design, and even all of the tragedies that occurred were ultimately for the best.

Voltaire thought this was a load of shit, so he wrote Candide to mercilessly satirize this philosophy. (It worked, by the way. Leibniz was so humiliated, he got laughed out of philosophy and had to go be a mathematician instead.) Voltaire had been deeply affected by the Lisbon earthquake and fire of 1755, which resulted in an estimated 30,000-40,000 casualties, and furthermore was horrified by accounts of the treatment of slaves and other human rights abuses.

So these horrors get magnified into a string of tragedies which befall the sweet and sincere Candide after he has learned Leibnizian optimism from his tutor Pangloss. His unflagging cheerfulness renders absurd the scope of human tragedies and abuses: Candide gets flogged by a thousand men as an auto de fe, Pangloss proves that his New World syphilis was necessary to also obtain New World chocolate, and the daughter of a pope is (fortunately!) not killed to be eaten but instead negotiates to only have one buttock carved off. Thank God for buttocks, and having them in duplicate. Candide endures most everything before concluding that optimism "is the mania of saying things are well when one is in hell."

It's difficult to say who or what Voltaire's satire takes aim at. Leibniz and his bird-brained philosophy, to be sure. But there's satire against religious institutions, satire against academics, satire against theology, satire against religious hypocrites. Satire against God? Voltaire was irreverent to the extreme, and even if the string of tragedies about which he writes served to point out the logic fail of Leibniz, nevertheless these were tragedies with a historical basis. Natural disasters do happen, slaves really did get abused terribly, people really were killing each other over religious differences. It ends up a bit too pointed to leave God out of the picture.

A professor of mine called Candide "satire with a flamethrower," because the scope of satire was so wide and so delightfully biting. But Voltaire's bitterness about the problem of evil has to transcend mere poking fun at Leibniz. It's too hard-hitting; ultimately at some level God must be implicated too. And while satire is more interested in tearing down ideologies and platitudes than rebuilding philosophies anew, the solution which Candide comes to is a gentle and diligent humanism: "we must cultivate our garden." ( )
1 stem the_awesome_opossum | Apr 10, 2010 |
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The accompanying apparatus has been revised in accordance with recent biographical and critical materials. The Backgrounds and Criticism sections provide important essays that shed light on major critical issues relevant to Candide and to the intellectual climate of the period. In addition to the reports of five English visitors to Ferney, essays by Haydn Mason, Erich Auerbach, Ernst Cassirer, and Robert M. Adams are included. The final section of the edition, "The Climate of Controversy," summarizes the debate surrounding Voltaire's works and includes essays by Peter Gay, Raymond Naves, Gustave Lanson, and John Morley. Also included are a series of quotations about Voltaire by such prominent figures as Gustave Flaubert, Frederick the Great, and Stendhal, as well as the text of "Pangloss's Song," a ballad from the 1956 Candide-based operetta by Richard Wilbur.

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