Quote of the week:

"We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep."
- William Shakespeare.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Candide by Voltaire- Part 1 A trip into the best of all possible worlds.

Among the greatest minds of the 18th century, Voltaire´s witticism and keen intellect enabled him to become a perennial philosophical and literary genius. His work was defined by the sharp-edged social criticism, insightful knowledge and caustic satire that earned him the hatred of the conservative institutions of his time and the appraisal of the literary world. Candide is in no way an exception to the rule.




We are presented with the story of Candide, a noble hearted young man, brought up in the household of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh of Westphalia. The simple pleasures of his simple life consist solely in the teachings of Pangloss, the family tutor, until he suddenly falls in love with Cunégonde, the daughter of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh. His infatuation quickly gets him kicked out of the Baron´s house and left to perish in the midst of our cruel world.


After a brief and yet most harrowing enlisting in the Bulgar army, he comes to know that the castle of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh has been assailed and all its inhabitants gruesomely murdered. However, the unexpected encounter with his former tutor renews his long abated hopes and eventually leads him to find a still living and still beautiful Cunégonde, the love of his life.


A series of murders serve as catalyzers for Candide´s adventures to come, forcing him to face overseas pursuit, separation from his beloved Cunégonde and unimaginable toils and hardships that he must endure if he shall rescue his bride to be from peril and languishment.


An extremely interesting story that compounds political satire, social critique, a fantastical and yet charming plot, humorous wit and philosophical acumen, Candide is a tour de force that vouches for the vast talent and marvelous technique of one of the most brilliant minds in French literature.




More often than not, political satires cannot withstand the passing of time without losing most of its perspicacity and freshness. Nothing could be farther from the truth when it comes to this amazing story.


When Voltaire wrote Candide in 1758, he was inspired not only by the social absurdities of his time, but also by the misinterpretation of the optimistic doctrines, giving birth to what he considered a callous and inane new creed, utterly insensible to human suffering.


Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646-1716), a German mathematician and philosopher, went along with the Christian doctrine in attempting to give an optimistic explanation of life and the world we live in. In approaching the issue of “why are there so many atrocities and injustices in the world?”, they explained that, since we live in a world in which the free will of man is its most powerful driving force, there will always be a potential of good and evil; that since there is room for choice there cannot be exemption from either of them and that such world is better to live in than one devoid of freedom of action. However, such belief carries hope and optimism in its core, since it´s up to man to eventually supersede its flawed condition and reach a point in which good will be its unique choice, despite the other paths that may lie before him.


Nevertheless, when Pangloss incessantly babbles that “all is for the best”, he embodies the perverted and inane conception that the disciples of the optimistic doctrines have misconstrued and began to senselessly spout about. That is precisely what angered Voltaire and essentially led him to write Candide, in hopes to expose the drones that claimed that the foulest atrocities in this world indeed should have happened, and were even beneficial, if one considered “the big picture”.


Other equally interesting topics can be found in this marvelous classic, some of which I shall discuss in the second part of this post.  For now I can say without shadow of a doubt, that this is a deeply enjoyable story, with very profound motifs and an altogether humorous and riveting plot. Definitely a must read.


  1. Great analysis, Sergio! I admire your love for these great classic novels.

    1. Thank you so much! They are my true passion. I am always glad to find someone who´s also in love with literature.
      I just hope that one say I´ll be able to review them with the same skill and eloquence as you do.
      Thanks for dropping by!