Candide: Or Optimism (Paperback)
It was the indifferent shrug and callous inertia that this "optimism" concealed which so angered Voltaire, who found the "all for the best" approach a patently inadequate response to suffering, to natural disasters, not to mention the questions of illness and man-made war. Moreover, as the rebel whose satiric genius had earned him not only international acclaim, but two stays in the Bastille, flogging, and exile, Voltaire knew personally what suffering entailed. In Candide he whisks his young hero and friends through a ludicrous variety of tortures, tragedies, and a reversal of fortune, in the company of Pangloss, a "metaphysico-theologo-comolo-nigologist" of unflinching optimism. The result is one of the glories of eighteenth-century satire.
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By his mid-thirties his literary activities precipitated a four-year exile in England where he won the praise of Swift and Pope for his political tracts. His publication, three years later in France, of Lettres philosophiques sur les Anglais (1733)—an attack on French Church and State—forced him to flee again. For twenty years Voltaire lived chiefly away from Paris. In this, his most prolific period, he wrote such satirical tales as “Zadig” (1747) and “Candide” (1759). His old age at Ferney, outside Geneva, was made bright by his adopted daughter, “Belle et Bonne,” and marked by his intercessions in behalf of victims of political injustice. Sharp-witted and lean in his white wig, impatient with all appropriate rituals, he died in Paris in 1778—the foremost French author of his day.
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