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Old 09-20-2015, 12:13 AM   #1
WT Sharpe
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September 2015 Discussion: Candide (spoilers)

The time has come to discuss the September 2015 MobileRead Book Club selection, Candide by Voltaire. What did you think?
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Old 09-21-2015, 01:08 AM   #2
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I feel really bad I haven't had a chance to read this yet. My family and I all got sick last week and no reading was accomplished. Hopefully I will get to if after this week but I have a long library book due early the next week which I need to read first.

I do plan on reading it though.
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Old 09-21-2015, 01:49 AM   #3
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Fortunately, it's a short read. I "get" it, but I'm not sure I enjoyed it. Which is not to say that I think we shouldn't have read it. A worthy book to have read, and I can certainly see why it fits this month's category.
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Old 09-21-2015, 08:43 AM   #4
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This was (at least) the third time for me reading Candide but the first time as an audiobook. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but can't help but feel Voltaire may have been poking fun at some unknown (to me) author's writing style as well as the Church, Leibniz, and pretty much everyone else in the world. The story itself was so wildly improbable, with extreme and frequent swings of fortune, people dying only to discover later that they had miraculously escaped death, and improbably timed events. This book was all over the place, but it was always a fun journey. Its breathless pace reminded me somewhat of Mark's Gospel. Perhaps the anonymous author of that gospel was the unknown author he was targeting with his wit.
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Old 09-21-2015, 09:35 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by WT Sharpe View Post
This was (at least) the third time for me reading Candide but the first time as an audiobook. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but can't help but feel Voltaire may have been poking fun at some unknown (to me) author's writing style as well as the Church, Leibniz, and pretty much everyone else in the world. The story itself was so wildly improbable, with extreme and frequent swings of fortune, people dying only to discover later that they had miraculously escaped death, and improbably timed events. This book was all over the place, but it was always a fun journey. Its breathless pace reminded me somewhat of Mark's Gospel. Perhaps the anonymous author of that gospel was the unknown author he was targeting with his wit.
You took the words out of my mouth maybe except the fun at some author's writing style . I have not read many authors so difficult to infer. I loved the book and glad we chose it. Funnily I can't recollect many parts from the book now. Craziest part was how no one who mattered in the book died. Didn't matter what was done to them

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Old 09-21-2015, 01:33 PM   #6
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I am always amused by Voltaire's wit whenever I read this (reread Lowell Bair's translation). How can one not love passages like this:


Spoiler:
He asked alms of several grave-looking people, who all answered him, that if he continued to follow this trade they would confine him to the house of correction, where he should be taught to get a living.

The next he addressed was a man who had been haranguing a large assembly for a whole hour on the subject of charity. But the orator, looking askew, said:

"What are you doing here? Are you for the good cause?"

"There can be no effect without a cause," modestly answered Candide; "the whole is necessarily concatenated and arranged for the best. It was necessary for me to have been banished from the presence of Miss Cunegonde, to have afterwards run the gauntlet, and now it is necessary I should beg my bread until I learn to earn it; all this cannot be otherwise."

"My friend," said the orator to him, "do you believe the Pope to be Anti-Christ?"

"I have not heard it," answered Candide; "but whether he be, or whether he be not, I want bread."

"Thou dost not deserve to eat," said the other. "Begone, rogue; begone, wretch; do not come near me again."

The orator's wife, putting her head out of the window, and spying a man that doubted whether the Pope was Anti-Christ, poured over him a full… Oh, heavens! to what excess does religious zeal carry the ladies.

A man who had never been christened, a good Anabaptist, named James, beheld the cruel and ignominious treatment shown to one of his brethren, an unfeathered biped with a rational soul, he took him home, cleaned him, gave him bread and beer, presented him with two florins, and even wished to teach him the manufacture of Persian stuffs which they make in Holland. Candide, almost prostrating himself before him, cried:

"Master Pangloss has well said that all is for the best in this world, for I am infinitely more touched by your extreme generosity than with the inhumanity of that gentleman in the black coat and his lady."


Yes, the way that all the character's, especially Pangloss, manage to survive to the end is part of the fun of it.

Maybe of interest to some but this biography of Voltaire by Ian Davidson is on my to read list.
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Old 09-22-2015, 01:08 AM   #7
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I had been reading Neal Stephenson's Baroque Trilogy over the last couple of years so I was somewhat familiar with Leibniz' philosophy.

When I read the first chapter my first thought was a quote from James Branch Cabell's The Silver Stallion.


Quote:
The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.
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Old 09-22-2015, 01:36 AM   #8
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It was even more cartoonish and far-fetched than I was expecting but I enjoyed the adventure of it and found it funny and witty. I can see why it was such a hit in its day and why it was banned. Some of the best humourous bits were the early passage describing Cunegonde finding her teacher giving a lesson in nature, the various allusions to her brother’s relations with men and the old maid often finding a reason to mention her missing buttock. For different reasons I also really liked El Dorado.
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Old 09-22-2015, 11:18 AM   #9
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Agreed with the cartoonish and far-fetched. It was just a dullard of a read for me because of the conveniences of lack of plot. Perhaps I was probably expecting something a little more subtle.
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Old 09-22-2015, 11:51 AM   #10
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There are so many memorable lines in this short work. Here are a handful of my favorites (in no particular order):

Quote:
Master Pangloss taught the metaphysico-theologo-cosmolonigology. He could prove admirably that there is no effect without a cause, and in this best of all possible worlds the baron's castle was the most magnificent of all castles, and my lady the best of all possible baronesses.
Quote:
"Do you believe,' said Candide, 'that men have always massacred each other as they do to-day, that they have always been liars, cheats, traitors, ingrates, brigands, idiots, thieves, scoundrels, gluttons, drunkards, misers, envious, ambitious, bloody-minded, calumniators, debauchees, fanatics, hypocrites, and fools?"

"Do you believe," said Martin, "that hawks have always eaten pigeons when they have found them?"
Quote:
"I hold firmly to my original views. After all I am a philosopher."
Quote:
"Observe that noses were made to wear spectacles; and so we have spectacles. Legs were visibly instituted to be breeched, and we have breeches. Stones were formed to be quarried and to build castles; and My Lord has a very noble castle; the greatest Baron in the province should have the best house; and as pigs were made to be eaten, we eat pork all year round; consequently, those who have asserted all is well talk nonsense; they ought to have said that all is for the best."
Quote:
"What! Have you no monks to teach, to dispute, to govern, to intrigue and to burn people who do not agree with them?"
Quote:
"This is the price at which you eat sugar in Europe."
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Old 09-22-2015, 03:52 PM   #11
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I read this book a long time ago and this time I got more out of it but at the same time became more aware of its limitations. It doesn't develop character in a novelistic fashion but instead presents a series of episodes created to show how bad things are.

Certainly the book had passages of great satiric power reminiscent of Swift and like Swift these sections are still quite relevant. I refer to Voltaire's deeply misanthropic portrait of the corruption of society and the cruelty and inhumanity of war. His vision is essentially tragic. In the end there is little left but to endure.

More dated is his attack on the optimistic philosophical Deism of the Neoclassical writers. Few would agree with Alexander Pope's assessment that "Whatever is, is right." Thus a considerable amount of satiric bombardment is aimed at empty trenches. Still, Voltaire stands with Swift as one of the great satirists in European Literature.
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Old 09-24-2015, 10:15 PM   #12
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Agreed with the cartoonish and far-fetched. It was just a dullard of a read for me because of the conveniences of lack of plot. Perhaps I was probably expecting something a little more subtle.
Agree. At about the 25% mark, the repetitive fantastical got to me: "Same old same old--do I want to subject myself to more of this?" and stopped reading.
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Old 09-25-2015, 01:45 AM   #13
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As a writer, I use repetition for emphasis. But, for me, this got really boring and annoying after about the 1/3rd mark. I had gotten the point, and was just being annoyed.
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Old 09-25-2015, 11:57 AM   #14
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I read the 2005 translation by Theo Cuffe (thanks for the recommendation, issybird). That may have made some difference.

Satire that is more than 250 years old doesn’t always travel well, because we live in such a different world. In Voltaire’s world, writers did not publish the crimes and follies of the ruling classes; there are good reasons why Voltaire lived so often in Switzerland or near the Swiss border. Candide was shocking at the time, simply because it was published and distributed; it would have been regarded as a libel of God’s Church and the rulers appointed by God.

Perhaps that is why, living in a world where the rich and powerful are thin and poor people are obese, the line “The Baroness, who weighed approximately three hundred and fifty pounds, and consequently basked in very great esteem...” seems odd, Voltaire meant it to be funny. Likewise, in a Germany bursting with petty nobles, “The Baron was one of the most powerful lords of Westphalia, for his castle had a gate and windows”.

Still, there are some great lines in this book, which kept me reading. For example, at Candide’s auto-da-fe: “...they walked in procession, and listened to a most affecting sermon, followed by a delightful piece of plainchant monotony. Candide was flogged in cadence to the singing...”. Cunegonde revisits that in her reunion with Candide: “...my mind was spinning...with the hanging of Dr.Pangloss, and that great plainchant miserere they intoned while you were being flogged”.

Then there is the brilliant satire of “...inserted their fingers into that orifice...it is a custom established from time immemorial among the civilized seafaring nations...It is one article of international law that is never neglected.” and, of the Jesuit Paraguay missions, “Los Padres own everything, and the people own the rest; it is a masterpiece of justice and reason.”

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Old 09-25-2015, 01:52 PM   #15
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What bfisher said. I've enjoyed Candide every time I've read it, which is not something I can say for other classics, or even modern writing.
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