Sunday, March 20, 2011

Candide, Voltaire

In more shameful confessions, I've also never read any Voltaire.  This was a short and sweet beginning.  I liked the melodrama and pathos of Candide.  It was wryly humourous and had a fantastic sarcasm and lightness to it that I honestly wasn't expecting.

Candide is a striking novella, written in 1759, about the improbable adventures of a young man, accustomed to luxury, thrown into a variety of unpleasant situations and crises.  Characters die, come back to life, reunite, and philosophise about their situations endlessly.  It's a sarcastic piece, ridiculing the philosophy of optimism in particular:
"Yes," said Candide, "and I have seen worse that all that; and yet a learned man, who had the misfortune to be hanged, taught me that everything was marvelously well, and that these evils you are speaking of were only so many shades in a beautiful picture."
I pretty much liked it, it's a tad heavy in some parts, but I think my perception of this was more due to when it was written, it's hard for a novel written in the 1700s to not be tad ploddy in parts to a modern eye.  Overall, the humour and wit is worth it. 

On the army:
"...a million of regimented assassins traverse Europe from one end to the other, to get their bread by regular depredation and murder, because it is the most gentlemenlike profession."
 On poets and their reputation:
"Ignorant readers are apt to judge a writer by his reputation.  For my part, I read only to please myself.  I like nothing but what makes for my purpose."  Candide, who had been brought up with a notion of never making use of his own judgment, was astonished at what he heard...."
It's an improbable book, with a moral ending.  Worth a read.


This was a free ebook on Kindle for iPad.  The translation was lovely. 


Kristi said...

I'm glad you liked it. I haven't read any Voltaire either, but I'm going to rectify that. I'm going to give in and get an ipad soon so maybe I'll read this version.

Selene said...

Get an iPad, they rock! (I'm enabling you :D). I enjoyed this one, and it's short, so is a good introduction to Voltaire, or it was for me.

ps. Get an iPad! ;p