“Candide” by Voltaire

CandideWikipedia’s entry tells us that Candide, ou l’Optimisme is a French satire first published in 1759 by philosopher Voltaire and widely translated. The story concerns a young man, Candide, who starts the book living a sheltered and paradisical life, then suffers a slow and painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world.

Candide has enjoyed both great success and great scandal, having been banned for religious blasphemy, political sedition and intellectual hostility. However, its wit and insightful portrayal of the human condition has encouraged later authors and artists to mimic and adapt it. Today, Candide is one of the most frequently taught works of French literature and is thought be some to be one of the world’s most influential books.

We read this in March 2015, when six people attended the meeting. Details of the discussion have been lost to the ravages of time, however notes scratched into the back of a beer mat reveal that scores ranged from 2 to 8. After including three more votes submitted by email, the book got an average score of 5.5 from nine readers.

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  1. malcolmbbc

     /  October 29, 2015

    A third email response, this time from Michele:

    “I listened to the book on audio. To start with I quite enjoyed it, and thought it was going to progress along the lines of the Arabian Nights, with Candide acting as a link between short stories. I liked the dark humour and ironic tone, but found that eventually this wore a bit thin. There is some thought provoking and insightful writing, but I felt the lack of any real characterisation. I think that may be more my problem than the book, I’m not a great fan of political satire.

    I would give it 6/10.”

  2. malcolmbbc

     /  October 29, 2015

    Annette also sent short comment by email:

    “I second what Helen said about the pace which actually felt quite modern and the characters seemed quite colourful. But I’m only going to give it 6.”

  3. malcolmbbc

     /  October 29, 2015

    Helen couldn’t make the meeting but sent these comments by email:

    I liked the book it was a surprisingly fast paced easy and fairly witty / sarcastic read, though I got tired of Candide’s optimism. I know that was the point of this brief story. It did not seem that it was written about 250 years ago, apart from some of the racial comments that we come across in our classic books. I presume that you can use this as a springboard into learning about Leibniz’s philosophy, the Seven Years War etc and look deeply into this novel, but reading it was enough for me! I may have a look into this when I have more time as I am sure I did not understand all of it. However, the misadventures of Candide and his friends eventually started to grate on me and the book would not have held my attention if any longer.

    I did find it amusing that he had been through so much (the events were not realistic at all) and he did not even get the beautiful girl in the end! Voltaire comments basically, ‘so now that Candide can marry Miss Cunegonde, he really doesn’t want to. She’s ugly now.’

    I believe that this was an inspiration for Gulliver’s Travels – perhaps one for the list for the book group to read?

    I give this book 6.5/10 with the extra 0.5 being awarded for the lady who had her bum sliced to feed the menfolk.


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