not merely superfluous, but ridiculous
this post was originally published on my Goodreads account.
Candide is a book whose outrageous pessimism wouldn’t be quite so forgivable if it weren’t so damn funny. Voltaire places a naive and optimistic protagonist, Candide, in the middle of the atrocities of the early 18th century and pretty much lets him go. It’s the sort of premise that could wear you down, but Voltaire has the good sense to make it short, easy to read, and, once again, funny.
There was something about the book that made me think of the history of when it was written–it feels as though Voltaire must have been responding to the extreme multiculturalism and consequent exchange of knowledge that came from that. Never before this time had humanity known so much about the world. Never before had Europe been in direct touch with so many cultures, and had such direct knowledge of so many atrocities, and had such efficient means of creating more. Voltaire is writing of a period in which technological advancements seemed to increase the sum of human suffering, where the world and the sheer number of its cultures and countries and conflicts had grown so large as to destabilize the old assumptions of previous ages, and Candide reflects this multiculturalism in the way that he seems to travel through the world without a home or stable center, spun from country to country at the whim of fate.