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Voltaire’s brilliant satirical assault on what he saw as the naively optimistic philosophy of the Enlightenment, Candide, or Optimism is a dazzling picaresque novel, translated and edited by Theo Cuffe with an introduction by Michael Wood in Penguin Classics.
Brought up in the household of a German Baron, Candide is an open-minded young man whose tutor, Pangloss, has instilled in him the belief, inspired by Leibniz, that ‘all is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds’. But when his love for the Baron’s rosy-cheeked daughter is discovered, Candide is cast out to make his own fortune. As he and his various companions roam over the world, an outrageous series of disasters befall them – earthquakes, syphilis, a brush with the Inquisition, murder – sorely testing the young hero’s optimism. In Candide, Voltaire threw down an audacious challenge to the philosophical views of his time, to create one of the most glorious satires of the eighteenth century.
Theo Cuffe’s translation brilliantly conveys Voltaire’s acerbic humour. In his introduction, Michael Wood discusses Voltaire’s satirical attack on contemporary philosophy. This edition also contains a map, extensive notes, table of dates, further reading and appendices including extracts from Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary.
Fran ois-Marie Arouet (1694-1778), better known by his pseudonym Voltaire, was a French writer and satirist, the embodiment of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. Among his best-known works is the satirical novel Candide (1759).
If you enjoyed Candide, you might like Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, also available in Penguin Classics.
’The prince of philosophical novels’
John Updike, author of Rabbit, Run
’ An excellent new translation’
Robert McCrum, Observer
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