I am very much behind in my book reviews. So far behind, in fact, that I have to review two books that I read last year. This is the first of those reviews.
Candide is a funny and sharp book, with excellent observations about the folly of excessive optimism. The writing is somewhat mordant, and suffused with a dark humor. But it is humor that prompts reflection, analysis, and debate amongst readers. The book’s lesson–that we will have to make the best of our own world through work–is a valuable antidote to the temptation to take shortcuts to happiness.
The translation flows easily, and conveys Voltaire’s cutting wit very well, making the book quite readable. There are some questions as to whether the book is too violent, but frankly, if one cannot stand the descriptions of violence in this book, one cannot stand any description of violence whatsoever (I make this observation as someone who doesn’t particularly like descriptions and/or portrayals of violence). The irony, sarcasm, and brutal truths conveyed by Candide overrides the descriptions of violence, and so long as the reader focuses on those two elements–along with Voltaire’s attack on ridiculously extreme manifestations of optimism–the descriptions of violence will be seen for what they are; as supplements to the point of the story, as opposed to being the story.