Book Review: "Candide" by Voltaire

book cover image of Candide by Voltaire

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.

by Voltaire
Barnes & Noble Classics, 2003.. First Published 1759.
146 pages
Source:  Purchased Used
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9 thoughts on “Book Review: "Candide" by Voltaire

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  1. I fully agree about the notes – I read the project Gutenberg version, skipped all notes, finished in a day and a half, thoroughly enjoyed it, and only then did I have a look at the notes. These provide some background info, but I did not feel that they added anything to the book as such.


  2. We read this in high school and I remember really enjoying it. I loved the character that today I'd term a “life coach” and how he thought it was the best of all universes 🙂 And I liked the lesson at the end, too, about cultivating your own garden.


  3. I used to be intimidated by Voltaire and all those old french guys back when I started studying literature. Everybody said their were boring.

    I started with CANDIDE. I sat on the toilet one night and started reading it. I remained there for one hour. CANDIDE is a ruckus. It's a small, accessible novel and it's as action packed as the pre-Dumas days can get. Loved it.


  4. I've been looking forward to get to Candide. It terrified me before, but after reading your review, I think I will like it. I have downloaded the Gutenberg ebook, might read it next year!

    As for the notes or introduction, I myself never read them before I read the story.


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