Candide is a novel from French historian and philosopher, Voltaire. It was written back in 1759 as a satirical take on relentless optimism as a world-view. Voltaire uses a progressively grim narrative to expose the flaws in using utter optimism as a value system. The main characters go through every piece of humiliation, degradation and bad luck imaginable – and Voltaire doesn’t rest until they are completely broken down as people.
This is his message after all – that pure optimism is an ideal that doesn’t hold up in a practical reality. The way he does this is contradictory of course, but this is what makes the novel what it is. The wit simply drips off the tongue of the author and at times – it appears ridiculous. However, that is exactly as Voltaire intended.
I don’t quite know what I think about the book. Practically, it was short and a relatively easy to book to read (compared to some other Philosophy titles) but the message that Voltaire espouses is something I grossly disagree with. He presents an extremely cynical view of the world – something that turns me off – being a real optimist myself. I can appreciate the wit and the sarcasm, mostly directed towards the delusionally optimistic, but I tend to find the narrative somewhat heavy-handed in this respect.
Maybe I am just one of these relentless optimists that Voltaire is making fun of?
I’m ok with that though. For me, it’s much better than the opposite.