Classics

Candide – By Voltaire

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Perhaps the sharpest, wittiest book to ever have been written, it is strangely ironic that Candide was inspired by the catastrophic Lisbon Earthquake of 1655. Its content was so subversive to the existing political and societal order that it was banned simultaneously in both Geneva and Paris immediately upon its publishing. Religion was not spared either: Voltaire consistently gave his religious characters less than robust moral fibre, infuriating pretty much every religious order imaginable.

“It was decided by the university of Coimbre that the sight of several persons being slowly burned in great ceremony is an infallible secret for preventing earthquakes.”

Candide is the masterpiece of French Englightenment thinker Voltaire, a notoriously outspoken individual, famous for his sharp wit with both his tongue and his pen. His blunt, controversial and unmistakably fearless criticism of his contemporary societal order inevitably gained him enemies and admirers alike; and this, coupled with his strong anti-establishmentarianism, led to his imprisonment on more than one occasion, and to his frequent expulsion from France.

“What! Have you no monks to teach, to dispute, to govern, to intrigue and to burn people who do not agree with them?”

Candide is the name of the protagonist of the book – a young man who, despite such disastrous misfortune enveloping both him and all those around him, remains true to an optimistic philosophy that ‘all is the best, in the best of all possible worlds’. Voltaire, rejecting this philosophy after the monumental loss of life due to the Lisbon Earthquake, refuted it with masterful ridicule. The preeminent philosophical and societal ideas of 18th century Europe were refuted in the backdrop of absurdity; one such happening in this book involves disguised Jews being apprehended after being spotted throwing away the bacon garnish from their meal. What is unique about Candide is that it deals with serious philosophical arguments in hilarious fashion; it is therefore accessible to any reader – one who seeks either intellectual or comedic stimulation, or both.

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