Francois-Marie Arouet (who plucked the nom de plume Voltaire out of the sky like one plucks a bogey from one’s nostril) penned this epic non-epic satirical novella.
A key part of the Enlightenment era, the Frenchman remains arguably best known for his witty wit, his exile from Paris, and his time in England banging on about how damn ace the place was in comparison.
Candide, or Optimism
For 84 years Voltaire wrecked havoc on the times, only stopped by old age in 1778. He’d write anything: essays, poems, plays, blogs, vlogs, screenplays, and he had an incredibly vibrant Instagram account. On the latter he posted a relentless series of pictures about the ace wigs people wore back then.
Some suggest this was to overcome his anger at being exiled, but he did eventually make a triumphant return to Paris as an elder statesman. Bon!
He wasn’t addicted to social media, though, as he wrote a great many polemics and books. Candide, which is the one we be covering, was published in 1759. It follows the antics of the rather docile and naive Candide, a young man with an uncontrollable love for the lovely Cunegonde.
Elsewhere, his tutor, Professor Pangloss, has indoctrinated him with false ideals on the nature of the world. When this pleasant way of life abruptly ends, Candide endures many hellish experiences as he is forced to travel amongst European countries.
He rapidly loses his positive views on the world as he faces a myriad of hardships, leading him down a slippery slope towards an existential disdain for reality.
It’s a terrific work of satire which lampooned religious, political, and cheese making (probably) practices of the time. As it was so edgy it was published subtly in an attempt to quell any scandals and keep the censors happy – this failed.
It was banned outright, but is now considered Voltaire’s great work. We ain’t gonna argue with that, sonny jim! If you’re after a fast-paced story with wit, occasional bad language, and humour, then this is for you. Indeed.