Book Review: Candide

Candide by Voltaire
by VoltaireJohn Everett Butt (Translator and Introduction)

2 out of 5 stars on GoodReads

Candide and his friends are thrown into horrible situations, tortured, robbed, conscripted into armies, sold as slaves, shipwrecked, beaten, thrown into prison, etc… for the entire book, all the while discussing the philosophy of optimism, the idea that all is well and good in the world, despite the evidence to the contrary.

The writing is extremely concise and lacking in any detail, so that all the characters are one-dimensional, and the plot is very sparse. Everything moves quickly from one plot point to the next, so that within a few sentences the entire situation has changed. Not much is explained either, leaving a lot of plot holes and gaps in the story. 
That being said… it’s not really a story; it’s a satire, so most of the story structure that one would expect from a novel is missing. The “wit” falls flat and might have been funny back in the day, but I failed to find anything humorous in the entire book.

The writing harps on and on about the same subject of unrealistic optimism without really saying anything new. I wish there were some kind of development (character development, advancement of a theme, or maybe progress of an idea to a logical conclusion), but everything is the same through the whole book. Nothing changes! Every character is fundamentally the same person they were at the beginning.

I was quite disappointed in this book because usually I enjoy classical satire, and find that, despite the gap of years, the jokes are still funny because they appeal to everyone. However, the jokes in this book do NOT include things common to all men, and so their humor has been lost, confined to a particular era of history. Or maybe Voltaire just has a weird sense of humor that doesn’t appeal to ME particularly.

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