Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Candide by Voltaire

I've read Candide before, but I thought I might get more out of it this time around. I don't know if I did, though. Voltaire is brilliantly funny, of course. And I think I understood the historical context a little better this time. From what I've read recently about Candide, it wasn't so much Leibniz's philosophy ("this is the best of all possible worlds") he was making fun of as it was the general understanding of that philosophy. And one follower of Leibniz in particular, Christian Wolff, simplified his philosophy excessively, and this is what Voltaire was responding to. That's just what I've read recently.

So I got more of the historical stuff this time, but not that much more. I wish I had an annotated edition that would just tell me what he's referring to. Like the part where he said someone committed a murder, not like the murder of May of 1610, but like that of December 1594. What is he talking about? I don't know, and my five minutes of research on the internet did not supply the answer to this. And I'm not willing to put in more time than that.

I do love the ending, though, and Candide's conclusion: "il faut cultiver notre jardin". We must work in our garden. And maybe even better: "'We must work without arguing,' said Martin; 'that is the only way to make life bearable.'" Now if I could just get the kids to follow that advice.

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