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Candide or, Optimism (Modern Library) Hardcover – 27 Jan 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Inc; Modern Library Ed edition (27 Jan. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679643133
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679643135
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.9 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,682,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A fine new translation." Adam Gopnik, New Yorker "Burton Raffel's excellent translations of a wide variety of texts are rightly admired, and so will this one be. Thanks be, he possesses the wit necessary to take us on and along the satirical road of Voltaire's Candide." Mary Ann Caws, editor of The Yale Anthology of Twentieth-Century French Poetry" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Voltaire, was born in 1694. For twenty years Voltaire lived chiefly away from Paris. In this, his most prolific period, he wrote such satirical tales as “Zadig” (1747) and “Candide” (1759). He died in 1778.

Theo Cuffe translated Voltaire’s Micromégas and Other Short Fictions for Penguin Classics.

Michael Wood is the writer and presenter of many critically acclaimed series on television, including In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great and its accompanying book.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 15 July 2004
Format: Paperback
According to many scholars, Voltaire (pen name for Francois Marie Arouet) was the embodiment of the Enlightenment. Born in Paris is 1694, he was well educated by the Jesuits, studying law prior to turning to writing as a profession. His lampoons and satires won him fame and infamy; he was imprisoned and exiled at various times for his writing. He was forced into exile from France to England; later, he was invited to work for Frederick the Great in Berlin (politics and his reputation blew rapidly in the ever-changing winds of Europe). Voltaire wrote 'Candide' shortly after this period, when he had moved to Geneva. In 1778, the year of his death, he returned to Paris, a triumphant celebrity -- many of his ideas served to strengthen the movements that would eventually culminate in the French Revolution.
The story of 'Candide', the primary character in the Voltaire's novel, is the story of the search for answers. It is hard to classify 'Candide' solely as a political satire, or indeed in any other genre where it might find similarities. Voltaire explores religious and theological ideas, social and political situations, personal and intellectual issues, and the general strand of history. How could an omnipotent and benevolent God permit the world to be as it is? How can human beings, supposedly rational beings, treat each other as they do? How can rational beings act, feel and believe so irrationally?
The Enlightenment brought the ideas of Deism forward as important, and began to explore in earnest intellectual and political freedoms for people. The acquisition of knowledge, both pure theory and experiential/applied, was of high value. Candide was a student more than anything else, although in the course of the story, he holds many roles.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 432 reviews
196 of 207 people found the following review helpful
Delicious Irony Amidst Swift-Like Satire 29 Sept. 2000
By Donald Mitchell - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Ever since philosophers began thinking about the meaning of life, a favorite question has been "Why do bad things happen to good people?". In Voltaire's day, this issue was primarily pursued either from the perspective of faith (everything that happens is God's will and must be for Divine purpose) or of reason (What do these events mean to you, as you interpret them subjectively?). Infuriated by the reaction by some members of the church to a horrible loss of life from an earthquake in Lisbon, Voltaire wrote this hard-biting satire of the human condition to explore these questions.
Before reading further, let me share a word of caution. This book is filled with human atrocities of the most gruesome sort. Anything that you can imagine could occur in war, an Inquisition, or during piracy happens in this book. If you find such matters distressing (as many will, and more should), this book will be unpleasant reading. You should find another book to read.
The book begins as Candide is raised in the household of a minor noble family in Westphalia, where he is educated by Dr. Pangloss, a student of metaphysical questions. Pangloss believes that this is the best of all possible worlds and deeply ingrains that view into his pupil. Candide is buoyed by that thought as he encounters many setbacks in the course of the book as he travels through many parts of Europe, Turkey, and South America.
All is well for Candide until he falls in love with the Baron's daughter and is caught kissing her hand by the Baron. The Baron immediately kicks Candide out of the castle (literally on the backside), and Candide's wanderings begin. Think of this as being like expulsion from the Garden of Eden for Adam. Soon the penniless Candide finds himself in the Bulgarian army, and receiving lots of beatings while he learns to drill.
The story grows more far-fetched with each subsequent incident. To the casual reader, this exaggeration can seem unnecessary and annoying. It will remind you of the most extreme parts of Swift in Gulliver's Travels and Rabelais in Gargantua and Pantagruel. But subtly, Voltaire is using the exaggeration to lure the reader into making complacent judgments about complacency itself that Voltaire wants to challenge. The result is a deliciously ironical work that undermines complacency at a more fundamental level than I have seen done elsewhere. Basically, Candide challenges any view you have about complacency that is defined in terms of the world-view of those who are complacent.
Significant changes of circumstances (good and ill) occur to all of the members of the Baron's household over the course of the story. Throughout, there is much comparing of who has had the worst luck, with much feeling sorry for oneself.
That is the surface story. Voltaire is, however, a master of misdirection. Beneath the surface, Voltaire has another purpose for the book. He also wants to expose the reader to questioning the many bad habits that people have that make matters worse for everyone. The major themes of these undercurrents are (1) competing rather than to cooperating, (2) employing inhumane means to accomplish worldly (and many spiritual) ends, (3) following expected rules of behavior to show one's superiority over others that harm and degrade others, (4) focusing on money and power rather than creating rich human relationships, (5) hypocritical behavior, and (6) pursuing ends that society approves of rather than ends that please oneself.
By the end of the story, the focus shifts again to a totally different question: How can humans achieve happiness? Then, you have to reassess what you thought about the book and what was going on in Voltaire's story. Many readers will choose to reread the book to better capture Voltaire's perspective on that final question, having been surprised by it.
Candide is one of my favorite books because it treats important philosophical questions in such an unusual way. Such unaccustomed matching of treatment and subject matters leaves an indelible impression that normal philosophical arguments can never match. Voltaire also has an amazing imagination. Few could concoct such a story (even by using illegal substances to stimulate the subconscious mind). I constantly find myself wondering what he will come up with next. The story is so absurd that it penetrates the consciousness at a very fundamental level, almost like doing improvisation. In so doing, Voltaire taps into that feeling of "what else can happen?" that overcomes us when we are at our most pessimistic. So, gradually you will find yourself identifying with the story -- even though nothing like this could ever happen to you. Like a good horror story, you are also relieved that you can read about others' troubles and can put your own into perspective. This last point is the fundamental humanity of the story. You see what a wonderful thing a kind word, a meal, or a helping hand can be. That will probably inspire you to offer those empathic actions more often.
After you have finished Candide, I suggest that you ask yourself where complacency about your life and circumstances is costing you and those you care about the potential for more health, happiness, peace, and prosperity. Then take Voltaire's solution, and look around you for those who enjoy the most of those four wonderful attributes. What do those people think and do differently from you?
76 of 81 people found the following review helpful
Some Candides Are Better Than Others 7 Dec. 2002
By Bucherwurm - Published on
Format: Paperback
No the story doesn't change from edition to edition, but the supplementary material provided does change. Candide isn't just some hectic adventure story. It really fails as literature in this regard, and certainly Voltaire's purpose was not to make you chuckle while you whiled away a few empty hours. He would weep to think that you missed out on what he was really trying to tell you. Rest easy. I am not going to launch into a stuffy monologue on Leibnitz and 18th century French Catholicism, but in essence you should know that this is the essence of the story. The philosopher Leibnitz (who with Isaac Newton independently invented Calculus) explained the existence of evil in the world thusly: God, in his infinite wisdom, thought of all possible worlds that he could create, and he chose this one; therefore this must be the best of all possible worlds. Voltaire was also continually chastising the Catholic Church for it's lack of tolerance of other beliefs, and for its aristocratic pomp.
Enter now the Norton Critical Edition of Candide. This book presents the 75 page story along with 130 additional pages of various articles and essays on the times in which it was written; commentary by Voltaire and by his contemporaries; and critiques of the story by modern writers. Sure there are always a few dull, academic essays making their mandatory appearance in a book like this, but my suggestion is just to skip them. After all there are a lot of them to choose from.
Learn the story behind the story so to speak. After all it is the background of Candide that makes Candide the forceful satire that it is.
56 of 59 people found the following review helpful
Very funny, very dark classic...a must read! 14 Jan. 2000
By "fronker" - Published on
Format: Paperback
It is probably fair to say that there is no book that is quite like Voltaire's 'Candide'. This is a venomous satire of the 'Optimistic' philosophy and outlook of enlightenment thinkers such as Leibniz and Alexander Pope. As such, it is served well by the unique combination of repeated brutality and a deft, light touch. If that last comment doesn't make sense, then you'll just have to READ THE BOOK.
At a mere 144 pages (in this edition), this is a classic that is a breeze to read. As to the charge that this book is too "violent" or "in bad taste", I would only ask you to remember that Voltaire was furious that learned members of a "civilized" society (like Leibniz, Pope, and even Rousseau)could claim that the apparent senseless violence and mayhem wrought by disasters, war, disease, man's cruelty, etc. was actually only a part of some 'greater good' - after all, God (being perfect) could not 'logically' created anything but the 'best of all possible' universes.
Voltaire's touch is so light and understated that I defy anyone to write anything that contains a third of the violence in 'Candide' and still manages to read as breezily and somehow be genuinely funny.
But dark satire must be funny - otherwise it lapses into pedantry.
Read it - even if you do not like it, I guarantee you that it will disturb you and make you think.
And for that, we can thank Voltaire.
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
An old friend and some new ones 23 July 2000
By Jack L. Keller - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book has the title "Candide and other stories", but the exciting part is the other stories. Yes "Candide" is a great work and perhaps the best satircal work of the 18th century, but it alone does not do justice to Voltaire's genius.
Like a lot of people I had read "Candide" years ago for school and was impressed with the work. However, I soon forgot about it and never really thought about Voltaire's other works. As I was browsing Amazon one day I saw this book and thought it was time to revisit this old friend. Boy was I lucky.
Three of the "other stories" are every bit as good as "Candide". "Micromegas" is a fine SciFi work from the 1740's. It comes complete with a Saturnian and Syrian and relates their struggle to understand the Earth's philosophies. "Zadig" unfolds in a similar manner to "Candide" but may be even more biting. Finally "The Ingenu" holds special interest for Americans as it chronicles the problems encountered by a young Huron "Savage" as he relocates to "Civilized" France. The final story "The White Bull" is not in the same class as the rest of the works in this book, but still is a fun read.
It was nice to see my old friend "Candide", but even nicer to meet the new friends that are here. If you are considering buying one of the other copies which have only "Candide" the extra works here make this version so much richer.
93 of 104 people found the following review helpful
Awful translation 2 Feb. 2003
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
While Candide is a great book, this translation (the Dover Thrift Edition) has but one merit, and that is its low cost. Not only does the translator (anonymous) use archaic language to render in English a book that was written in modern French, but he misuses it. While one could make a case for using 'thou' when Voltaire used the informal 'tu', this translator uses it seemingly at random. He reverses the meaning of at least one line and skips several words for no apparent reason. If you want to read Candide, either find a better translation than this or read the original.
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