View Full Version : Candide, by Voltaire

Monday, October 11th, 2004, 06:55 AM
Just finished reading this (for the 1st time) about a month ago. What is your reaction to it? I find it to be an insightful read about the problems of optimism and faith. I also found it interesting that he seems to have strong anti-semitic beliefs? Can anyone elaborate? This seems like the kind of book you can read 100 times and still not catch every reference, joke, or symbolic phrase in.

Monday, October 11th, 2004, 12:50 PM
Candide is brilliant... (Voltaire is probably my favorite mind of all time, so naturally I am inclined to embrace his works with eagerness and adulation) :D

But, seriously, Candide is a great novel. Not only is it extremely witty and satirical, but it also conveys an important message (several, in fact).

IMO, the best way to get the full benefit of Candide is to do a little research on Voltaire...his philosophical beliefs and the social, political and religious standards of his time. Once you get an idea of who the author was, and the environs in which he lived, it's easy to read deeper into the writing. (read this poem about the 1755 or 56? Lisbon earthquake (http://oll.libertyfund.org/Texts/Voltaire0265/OnToleration/HTMLs/0029_Pt05_Lisbon.html) tragedy...Voltaire wrote the poem 3 years before Candide and it really summarizes his pessimistic ideology in reference to the story [candide]).

To me, Candide is not simply a story. It's an outlandish, over-the-top examiniation of real life....Then and now. The whole idea that the story is based around, or the idea the story repeatedly bashes, is that the world is a Utopia or "the best of all possible worlds". It was a parody on a philosophy of optimism introduced by Leibniz (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gottfried_Leibniz), (arguably the inspiration for Pangloss), that states that since God created the world and God is perfect, everything in the world is ultimately perfect. When human beings perceive something as wrong or evil, it is merely because they do not understand the ultimate good that the so-called evil is meant to serve.

Voltaire didn't shy away from saying that the overly optimistic philosphy was bs and that humanity was filled with evils. Candide vividly and satirically portrays the horrors of eighteenth-century life (which is pretty much the same today): civil and religious wars, sexual diseases, despotic rulers, the arbitrary punishment of innocent victims, religious corruption, etc. And it does it in a way that makes you laugh and say, "hey, humanity is screwed up...but this is life, and that's how it is."

I also found it interesting that he seems to have strong anti-semitic beliefs? Can anyone elaborate?
I noticed...Particularly in Voltaire's portrayal of Don Issachar who was a rich, conniving merchant...(Typical Jewish stereotype??? Yes.;) )

In the book the element was clearly there...but in real life it seems as though Voltaire's stance on Jews is questionable. He attacked religious persecution throughout his life, and in theory, he opposed the persecution of Jews, but he also expressed anti-Semitic views as well. For example, in his Dictionary of Philosophy, Voltaire describes the Jews as “the most abominable people in the world.” There are other references, but you get the idea.

Whatever his stance on Jews was, I still think that he was a great thinker and Candide is a fine slice of his genius.