The first book to seriously challenge mock The Age of Reason and the inadequacies of optimist Leibniz philosophy (“the best of all possible worlds”). The narrative is a massive negative catalogue of violence, absurdity, meaningless coincidence, sexual violence, human vice. If you ponder non-stop agendas, world events overseas, world-wide injustice and unfairness, and world atrocities as well as political fat-catism today, it is hard to not agree with what Voltaire saw in his own time and those continuing truths as evident today.
All the characters in the book are asses or victims, basically preyed on and stunningly harmed except for Martin, a realist who shows up halfway through the book. Only his wise comments seem to make any sense against the mad holocaust and litany suffering presented: “Well, this is how men treat one another.” The world in his view has been created “to plague us to death.” (And yet Voltaire manages to get the reader to laugh at the naivete of Candide and the foolishness of the book’s main characters.) Martin is also the one who proposes a solution for the survivors on Candide’s estate: “Let us work without disputing; it is the only way to render life tolerable.” The only note of true forward movement occurs when Candide rejects his cause-effect-obsessed teacher Pangloss and concludes: “we must cultivate our garden”.
Other Voltaire quotes:
–Work banishes those three great evils–boredom, vice, and poverty.
–Men¸use thought only to justify their wrong-doings, and words only to conceal their thoughts.
–History is just the portrayal of crimes and misfortunes.
–Once the people begin to reason, all is lost.
above picture: Dover Thrift Editions are highly recommended for their popular inexpensive editions.