Candide – Voltaire

Aug 29

Candide – Voltaire

I like to read one classic novel every summer.  This summer’s selection is by the French author Voltaire.  It is old school satire.  Candide is an innocent boy who greatly looks up to his philosophy teacher, Pangloss.  Pangloss basically states that all things should be dealt with in an optimistic fashion.  Candide buys into this wholly….even as his travels across the world show him some pretty horrible things.  When speaking to Cacambo, one of his many travel companions, Candide states, “…..it is the obstinacy of maintaining that everything is best when it is worst.”  Like when I tell myself I am lucky to have two jobs when I am on hour 16 of a work day.    The book moves quickly as Candide encounters tragedy after tragedy in search of his one true love.  The characters are underdeveloped and Voltaire takes every opportunity to comment on religion, politics, war, and other authors of the time (the mid 1700s).   Candide holds tight to his belief that things work out for the best.  Every time he is ready to have some doubt, some small positive occurence keeps pushing him forward.  Hope is an everpresent theme.  At one particular low point, another companion, Martin, states that, “…..man was born to live either in the convulsions of misery, or in the lethargy of boredom”.    That is a fairly dim view of reality that I am choosing to not embrace.  At the end of his journey, Candide surmises that the way to be happy is to “cultivate your garden”….advice that rings true, even in this century.

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