Thursday, March 1, 2012

Candide by Voltaire

Why I read it: Read it once in college and loved it, wanted to read it again, with a deeper appreciation of world history.

Summary: The ultimate optimist searches for the best of all possible worlds.

My Thoughts: I read this classic when I was in college, before I knew what an Anabaptist was. Now that I do, the book is a lot more funny.

And that was the point, in a way. Voltaire was making political statements about his world, both France and the other countries France came in contact with. It was satire. Today it's comedy. Back then, it made people's blood boil. But those people are long gone now. The book has to be read today with footnotes to put it in context.

Voltaire deals in the impossible. People who are obviously, even publicly killed in the early parts of the book return to life later on. Candide, a young, love-starved German, loses the love of his life, only to run into her across the Atlantic as he and his cohorts cris-cross the known world (of about 1759) and lose her again. The book is a work of fantasy, but that opens up a world of possibilities. Voltaire takes shots at every government, at warfare, at greed, at nobility.

The end of the book, literally the last five words, are as telling as any in the story: "We must cultivate our garden." No words are more applicable across space and time to any state, country or other political body.

I'm so glad that when it comes to books I'm a pack rat. I loved this book in college twenty years ago, and I love it even more now. I wonder what else I've got stored away in those old boxes.

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