[Work: Candide or Optimism, Voltaire, 1759]
The Unexpected Joy of Despair:

Comedy and Tragedy in Voltaire’s Candide

 

“Voltaire was the wittiest writer in an age of great wits, and Candide is his wittiest novel.” – John Butt

With a few notable exceptions toward the middle, this brief, influential work by Voltaire spends every chapter spinning a denser and denser web of horrors and misfortunes for its principal characters, and for everyone they meet. Wars break out, destroying lands, cities, and people; innocents are burned and lashed as heretics; lovers are repeatedly separated and brutally punished; and murders and disfigurements occur often and without warning.

Yet, through all of the horrors, I would be hard-pressed to name five books I’ve encountered and found funnier or more charming than Candide. It is rare when three pages pass in sequence without eliciting laughter. The novella is packed densely with stinging irony and sharp satire, directed almost entirely at philosophical idealists who posit that humans live in “the best of all possible worlds.”
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[Work: Candide or Optimism, Voltaire, 1759]
The Unexpected Joy of Despair:

Comedy and Tragedy in Voltaire’s Candide

was last modified: April 6th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski