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Micromégas ; Zadig ; Candide by Voltaire
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Micromégas ; Zadig ; Candide (1759)

by Voltaire

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Some independent minds might hope to skip this book - force-fed to generations of school children & students of French, insistently heralded as the centrepiece literary work from 18th Century Enlightenment. But open the volume & you will, from the first 2-3 pages, be held in an catching, instructive story, written with spectacular simplicity.

Its hero - well-named Candide - is forced out on a journey to determine whether this world is, as certain philosophers claim, an "optimal" world. Or at least one in which humans can find tolerable happiness. He is gradually disillusioned. Voltaire, far the best informed man of his age, draws on his colossal current affairs knowledge to describe gruesome real-event wars, earthquakes, torture, slavery, rape & deceit. Yet he also invents a glowing perfect society, the Eldorado, which in as little as 10 pages beats the combined utopias of Thomas More, Bacon & Condorcet. But agitated Candide finds only limited rest there. Will he & his companions at last reach contentment in a different manner & place?

If so, they will have to learn a lesson Voltaire himself, after purchasing his estate of Ferney, had only recently digested: to "work one's garden". Not a flowery pleasure park, but a "real" plot of land, yielding goods of immediate necessity & tangible nourishment.

A truly universal book. Brief, too. ( )
1 vote nielspeterqm | Apr 21, 2010 |
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