Oldies But Goodies – Candide

Reading a 250 year-old satire from a French philosopher wasn’t in my game plan but, when my sons had to read it for class, I decided to share the misery.  Did I say ‘misery’? How wrong I was! To my astonishment, Candide (published in 1759) is a vibrant, comedic love story that is as relevant and accessible today as when it was written. (Admittedly, it helps to have at least a vague notion of European history.) My sons shushed me repeatedly because my frequent laughter disturbed their work! Really!

Basically, Voltaire tells the tale of a young man (Candide) who was taught that he lived in the best of all worlds, at the best possible time, and that whatever happened must be for the best. His happily naïve belief is tested repeatedly as he is barred from the castle where he was reared, abducted into a rival army, shipwrecked, nearly burned at the stake – or was it nearly hung? –  and endures countless other miseries as he searches the world for  the woman he loves.

The good and the bad fall one after the other – find a fortune, lose the fortune; find his love, be separated again. Throughout, the over-riding question is why people, whether beggars or kings, seem to be consistently discontent with their lot in life.  Ultimately, Candide and his travelling companions do find happiness, and the lovers are reunited. The source of the happiness is the surprise, so I won’t spoil that for you.

This really is a hilarious book, an insightful social commentary and a tender love story rolled into less than 100 pages. Download it for free at the Gutenberg Project, or check your local library.  http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/19942

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