Book Review: Candide

This short novel was a genuine surprise. I certainly didn’t expect Voltaire to be this accessible, witty, sarcastic, and also outrageous for the era (1759). Below the surface of a seemingly entertaining and often absurd sequence of improbable events is a constant philosophical struggle. Quoting from the back cover:

Candide is the story of a gentle man who, though pummeled and slapped in every direction by fate, clings desperately to the belief that he lives in “the best of all possible worlds.” On the surface a witty, bantering tale, this eighteenth-century classic is actually a savage, satiric thrust at the philosophical optimism that proclaims that all disaster and human suffering is part of a benevolent cosmic plan.

His wondrous adventures around the world teach Candide that, contrary to the teachings of his distinguished tutor Dr. Pangloss, all is not always for the best.

With Candide, Voltaire ridicules religion, theologians, governments, armies, philosophies, and philosophers (Leibniz being his first target). An erratic, fantastical, picaresque novel with a fast-moving plot that enjoyed both great success and scandal at the time of its release.

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