Saturday, October 10, 2009

Candide by Voltaire (Read in August, 2009)

** spoiler alert **

Excerpt from the book jacket: "Candide is relentless in its attacks upon corruption and hypocrisy - in religion, government, philosophy, science, and even romance.”

Kudos to Voltaire for writing about a great subject and for his courage in exposing unreason. But I give it three stars out of five because of the following:

1. I do not appreciate ridicule that does not include an alternative to what's derided. Candide’s “we must cultivate our garden” is a resolution without a foundation - the stated purpose is vacuous.

At the end of the story, Candide resolves to work to avoid boredom, vice, and want. This has nothing to do with what the book ridicules: slavery, thuggery, wars, or unreason. It blanks out the use of the mind in one’s work.

2. Unlike his purposeful resolve to be reunited with Cunegonde, Candide’s globe-trotting is driftwood-like. What happens when they are reunited is not romantic nor Romantic.

3. In Candide, Voltaire used the emotion-oriented literary style: he asserted rather than showed.

4. Voltaire showed no hows nor whys in his El Dorado (Golden City). It is perfect. Period. The basis for the wealth and peaceful existence is not depicted. The place has a king which means the citizens have a boss.

Gold and gem stones are considered worthless. The place uses money as a medium of exchange but the standard of value is not mentioned.

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