Voltaire has always intimidated me. Just the name…. Voltaire. Its French, only went by one name, and was on just about every single test I ever had on The Renaissance in high school. This guy was important. His writings and thoughts are important. And I hadn’t read any of them before now.
One thing I didn’t know was that Voltaire is FUNNY! He is just all about satire here. This book is basically making fun of 17th century philosophers, Leibniz in particular. Leibniz was known for his philosophies regarding optimism. He basically believed that the world as it is, is the best of all possible worlds and God could not have made it any better. Voltaire created the character of Candide, a good, honest, innocent man who follows this philosophy under the direction of his philosophy master Pangloss. Candide, and just about anyone he comes into contact with, has the most horrendous, awful and terrible things happen to them throughout the book… and yet Candide sticks by his philosophy. It starts out comical, but eventually becomes absurd after a point. There was definitely a turning point for me where my mind started to wander and get curious as to what else can happen to this guy? The book just isn’t that big…. and still I went there.
I read the edition pictured above, part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series of books. I kind of skipped the introduction (like I usually do), but relied heavily on the notes and footnotes. I would have understood it just fine without them, but these notation really helped point out all the other digs Voltaire waged against his contemporary critics and enemies. I kind of respect his way of combating these people through his literature. It definitely added to my enjoyment of the overall book. It is a fun book, but I might have benefited from sitting down with the determination to read it in a single day without outside distractions.