A version of this was originally posted here on 28 May 2010.
A book that is as relevant today as it was in 1759 when it was first published is Voltaire’s Candide. A brilliant, short, quick and easy read whose brevity conveys all it needs to in less than 100 pages.
It has been argued that it was written as a critique of then-eminent German philosopher, Leibniz, one whose major claims was that Man lives in the best of possible worlds. Perhaps …
The story begins in Westphalia, from which the young, simple, naïve and gullible protagonist, Candide, is forced to flee. Whilst wandering around the world, Candide is dedicated to find links between cause-and-effect, and to prove that there is pre-established harmony as his tutor, Dr. Pangloss had taught him: that even distress and suffering is a necessary good for Man, and the order of the world.
The beauty of the story is not in the disproving of this philosophy but how it demonstrates how Candide in his innocence reveals the hypocrisy and cruelty behind the institutions and philosophies of Voltaire’s day (which unfortunately are still contemporary, four centuries later) in a series of hilarious scenes whose rapid-fire verbal wit and fantastical images have impressed readers since its publication. It ‘is a timeless burlesque; the yesterdays of conduct and history are reflected in the mirrors of today’.
A relentless and brutal assault on all the hypocrisies and idiosyncrasies of society and its institutions of religion, government, and education; the novel is brilliant, hilarious, blasphemous … and Voltaire never admitted to writing it.