Voltaire – Candide or Optimism

First off, let me say that the book itself, not the story, but the physical book is quite silly.  My copy of it is anyway.

It’s published by Barnes & Noble Books – I didn’t know the book chain has a publishing arm but apparently, it does.  This particular volume was published in 2003.  So far, so good.  They use Henry Morley’s translation which was first published in 1922 – it doesn’t say who by.  Introduction, Notes and Further Reading are all credited to Gina May.  The book is a trade paperback that is about 5 inches wide, 8 inches long and 1/2 an inch thick.

Now, I know they have to pad the book to make it worthwhile to sell – they have to make their money back somehow – right.  The pictures that are added into the volume – done by Alan Odle – don’t make much sense to me.  I think they’re supposed to have some literary merit, but I didn’t pay them much attention after the first one which appears opposite  the title page.

There’s a short bio on Voltaire himself, 1 and 3/4 pages(if that) so no big deal.  Quick table of contents, not of the story but of the entire book. This is short too so, no big deal again.   Then comes a 4 page timeline entitled The World of Candide and Voltaire.  Now, I’m feeling like I’m in history class not reading a book.  What follows next is an atrocious 12 and barely 1/8 pages of total boredom disguising itself as an Introduction.  I didn’t get past page 2 before I decided to skip ahead to the next section.

Now, at last, the story complete with a second title page!  Psyche!  What follows is a list of chapters called Table of Contents(of the story itself this time) styled and spaced so that  it takes up another 4 amd 3/4 pages of space.  Following that is a list of Pencil Plates, also styled and spaced to take up as much room as possible – in this case, one page followed by a blank page.

Then, at the very last, the story begins!!  Hooray, let’s throw a party!  The story itself, from start to finish,including the silly Pencil Plates, is only 120 pages long! Only 120!! The print is also small, but that’s not a long story at all!  No wonder they had to pack all the rest of the schloss in there with it – it would be a short story instead of a novella then.

Now, for a critique of the story.  I’m a realist so I had issues with the story from the start.  I had to make myself finish the story after putting it down several times.  I mean this guy is like Job in the Bible, going from feast to famine as he faces one calamity after another.  There is a short interim where he’s doing well but then, he leaves.  His life falls apart right after that.  During all of this, he remains an optimist believing that everything is “for the best” and a “necessity”.  It’s only towards the end of the story that he seems to be changing his mind.

I’m actually glad I did finish the book because it’s the last part that has me thinking.  It tells about how his old teacher would gloat about being right about everything being for the best.  How this teacher would tell him how everything he’d been through had been necessary for him to reach his current state of peace and happiness.  Candide would always answer this with ” Excellently observed, but we must cultivate our garden.”

That’s food for thought.



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