Candide, or Optimism
by Voltaire

Aug 21 2021

The novel is about Candide, an extreme optimist who, along the journey, has his optimism worn down, until him and his friends find satisfaction in a simpler life.

The novel is very silly, a lot of good hoots to be had. The Old Woman With One Buttock and Martin the Philosopher are particularly funny sketches. Still, the characters are intentionally paper-thin plot devices.

Candide answered: —I have seen worse; but a wise man, who has since had the misfortune to be hanged, taught me that everything was marvelously well arranged. Troubles are just the shadows in a beautiful picture.

—Your hanged philosopher was joking, said Martin; the shadows are horrible ugly blots.

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They make a trip to the legendary city of El Dorado, a utopia without suffering or conflict. That whole event was my favorite part. I think it’s a statement about how people don’t want what is good for them, even if it’s right under their noses. They prefer the old way of life, to uphold old memories.

It’s a fast paced book that doesn’t take time to smell the roses. Voltaire writes like a scriptwriter, and a slurry of action inundates you. I’d say that the read itself isn’t too bad. Since I read it in English instead of the French, it probably lost some flavor in translation.

Taken as a historical piece of fiction, it’s insightful to study and you can tell the author is well read, but it’s not a literary masterpiece. I think in an age where comedy standups and TV weren’t as accessible as today, Voltaire filled the niche of a celebrity jester.

Verdict: 3.5 / 5

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