Friday, January 4, 2013

Stay Positive: Rereading Candide

It's kind of rich that I'm writing about rereading Voltaire's Candide in a "Stay Positive" post because the title of the satire is Candide or Optimism

Nonetheless, I read it again. The first time I read it I was probably 19 years old. We read it in my World Lit II survey course with Professor Nancy Lovelace when I was a sophomore in college -- Fall 1990.

I enjoyed rereading it, but I recall the first read having a greater impact on me. It's one of those works of literature I think most teenagers should read. 

I could say the same about Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilych," which we also read in that course. 

What I've listed below are my favorite nuggets from Candide, some of which will probably reveal why I think young people should read it:

  • Candide, stunned, stupefied, despairing, bleeding, trembling, said to himself--If this is the best of all possible worlds, what are the others like? (Chapter 6)
  • Los Padres own everything in it [Paraguay], and the people nothing; it's a masterpiece of reason and justice. (Chapter 13)
  • What's optimism? said Cacambo. --Alas, said Candide, it is a mania for saying things are well when one is in hell. (Chapter 19)
  • ... in all of them [provinces of France] the principle occupation is lovemaking, the second is slander, and the third stupid talk. (Chapter 21)
  • I don't believe any of that stuff [religion], said Martin, nor any of the dreams which people have been peddling for some time now. --But why, then, was the world formed at all? asked Candide. --To drive us mad, answered Martin. (Chapter 21)
  • Perhaps I should prefer the opera, if they had not found ways to make it revolting and monstrous. Anyone who likes bad tragedies set to music is welcome to them; in these performances the scenes serve only to introduce, inappropriately, two or three ridiculous songs designed to show off the actress's sound box. (Chapter 25)
  • Fools admire everything in a well-known author. (Chapter 25)
  • --Well, my dear Pangloss, Candide said to him, now that you have been hanged, dissected, beaten to a pulp, and sentenced to the galleys, do you still think everything is for the best in this world? --I am still of my first opinion, replied Pangloss; for after all I am a philosopher... (Chapter 28)
  • I have only twenty acres, replied the Turk; I cultivate them with my children, and the work keeps us from three great evils, boredom, vice, and poverty. (Chapter 30)
  • --That is very well put, said Candide, but we must cultivate our garden. (Chapter 30)


Babe Runner said...

These are terrific. Voltaire rocks my socks.

Quintilian B. Nasty said...

Thanks Babe.

As the footnotes told me, he seemed to have fun naming "bad people" after his critics.

El Dorado would be a good place to hang out. And then he had to go to France.