Tag: Candide: Or Optimism

Candide: Or Optimism by Voltaire

Posted December 9, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 0 Comments

Candide: Or Optimism by VoltaireTitle: Candide: Or Optimism (Goodreads)
Author: Voltaire
Translator: Theo Cuffe
Published: Penguin, 1759
Pages: 224
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Hardcover

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Candide has lived a pretty sheltered life in an Edenic paradise, madly in love with the Baron’s daughter Cunégonde. His mentor Professor Pangloss taught him the ways of optimism but his adventures may challenge his life philosophy. Candide is a satire from Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. The book enjoyed much success, as well as a lot of controversy, being banned for religious blasphemy.

“Everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.”

In Candide, Voltaire sets out to challenge the philosophical ideas of optimism, particularly the works of Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz. Essentially he used a stripped down idea of optimism and explores it from a religious perspective. The idea is simply, if there is evil in the world would that be a sign that God is not entirely good or not all-powerful?

While Voltaire wrote Candide as a parody of the classic adventure tales, it also satirised organised religion. This was the main reason the novel got banned. Throughout the book all the religious leaders were either corrupt or hypocritical and you even encounter the Pope’s own daughter within the story. Most of the Catholic priests are never celibate, the hard-line Inquisitor has a mistress, and there is a friar who is a thief, despite the fact he is a member of the Franciscan order and has taken a vow of poverty.

For me, the connection between optimism and religion was what stood out the most in Candide. The whole concept of “everything will work out for the best” reminded me of the flawed thinking of some Christians. I grew up in the church, and I have heard people say things like “God will heal me” and never go to a doctor, or “God will provide” and never look for a job. I always thought this was a terrible attitude and a misunderstanding of the Bible. So while reading Candide, I saw this come through so many time and I really enjoyed that element.

This novel was a buddy read with a fellow booktuber (Shut Your Typeface) and her problem was the sexual exploitation of women within Candide. For me I thought Voltaire was trying to demonstrate a real situation effecting woman. The problem with having mistresses, rape, sexual slavery and still wanting women to be chaste and virtuous. I really do think he was trying to show a real problem that is effecting woman; all the women in the book were victims of some form of sexual assault. I might have viewed it one way but I can see how it could be interpreted as chauvinistic and disrespectful towards woman.

There are so many other themes that show up within Candide, from resurrection, wealth, and class. So many interesting topics worth exploring, but I did not want to make this review too long. I would love to talk about the parody of adventure tales, the humour and other themes but maybe I will leave them for the next review I do of this book, after a re-read. Candide was a very interesting and surprisingly easy to read. I had a lot of fun checking this novel out and looking at the depth to be found within the pages.