December 31, 2008

Book Review: Candide, by Voltaire

Posted in Book Reviews, Literature, Quotes at 8:52 am by faith786

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum,

I had actually read Candide a while back and I found this draft on my blog so I redid it for you all.

Candide, by Voltaire

For friends of mine, I actually named a character in my book after Candide because I found the book struck me.

The first time you read it, you may get a laugh out of all the things Voltaire criticizes. (You MUST read this book with foot notes to understand half the humor. Get the Barnes and Noble copy.) But the second time I found it is very thought provoking. I think that is why I like satires–you can read them at least in two different ways and then some more.

Candide is a story that follows a guy named Candide who is an absolute idiot and is running away from the police because he attempted to have a relationship with the daughter of some famous guy and then the girl got kidnapped and he went to go save her. Along his journey, he has a teacher and companion and basically the book is just about this guy on a journey that started in pursuit of a woman and ends up going in a different direction. The book is a lot more focused on making fun of different political and philosophical ideologies. It isn’t your typical novel with an amazing plot line and lovable characters. Candide is a lot more *raw* on tackling human nature and making fun of philosophy. You have to read it more than once to catch that though. One of my favorite (but not that funny) quotes from Candide (It is really deep.):

–A hundred times I wanted to kill myself, but always I loved life more. This ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our worst instincts; is anything more stupid than choosing to carry a burden that really one wants to cast on the ground? to hold existence in horror, and yet to cling to it? to fondle the serpent which devours us till it has eaten out our heart?

–The Old Woman (no name) in Candide

Style of Writing: The book was initially French, but the Barnes and Noble copy in English is easy to understand. Especially with the footnotes. It widens the breadth of literature in its style. I heard in French it is amazing.

Themes: A big theme is the idea that insane amount of optimism is a load of trash. The name of the main character, Candide, actually means optimism in French. The character sees the world in the best light and so does his teacher. It kind of pokes fun at Leibniz’s philosophy that everything in the world is made in the perfect way and is good. (Voltaire pokes fun at that in one point in the book where a bunch of people are drowning and Candide’s teacher tells Candide that the ocean was created there so that the people can drown happily.) It definitely points out hypocrisy in different sects of Christianity, especially religious leaders and how they don’t live up to Christian ideals. The book is a bit nihilistic through the outlook on the characters living life for no point and the book criticizes philosophy and religion a lot. (Again, mostly Christianity.) The philosophy jabs are generally at Spinoza and Leibniz and some of Nietzsche and Socrates. There are probably a load of other philosophers, but those were the ones that were in the foot notes and I personally caught on to. There is also the focus on the meaninglessness of life, particularly how Candide’s story is a bit unrealistic and he doesn’t take living so seriously. Also addresses the corruption too much money can do to people. I don’t know–there are MANY themes, but it is all about how you read into it.

Character development: Little to none. The book doesn’t focus too much on character development. It doesn’t mean it is a bad book, it is just a different style. Satire.

Symbols: The illusion that certain characters die, but then come back, rape (wait, that sounded bad)–rape in the sense that women were exploited, how the men expect women to be chaste and yet go after them, which further expresses hypocrisy in Europe. The garden, political corruption in Europe at the time, the Earthquake and in some ways, Pangloss and Miss Conegonde.

Plot: Story is okay, but kind of gets slightly confusing at the end.

Islamic rating: 4/10 (For murder, rape, random naked people, and some implicit messages) But it is not throughout the whole book, but about 3 pages you need to skip because the rape is rather graphic. (Just being completely honest)

Book rating: 7/10 I would have given it a higher rating if the plot was stronger, but the social, political, religious and philosophical criticisms are amazing! (The religious ones cut the line a little at times.)


—For Muslims—
A huge theme in the book is religious hypocrisy. The book at times bashes religion itself, but generally the social and political tensions within the religion. I kept thinking about Islam at certain parts of the book. The idea that in some Muslim countries, they oppress women and expect them to be perfect, and then you have soldiers of that country raping them and throwing acid on others. This is real. It is a problem we have and Voltaire pointed it out at Christians over a century ago. Islamic societies have problems Voltaire talks about and at the same time, the book asks you to think about how you think. Often, we act like idiots because of our philosophical outlook on life. That explains why there are some Muslims that justify killing people because their outlook on life is messed up. So I like how it points out that we should think.

Candide does have some slight anti-Muslim elements, but nothing outright against Islam. I think it is a book a lot of Muslims, or people in general, should read because it is very different than other satires. It criticizes ideas and thoughts more than people and vanity.

…Hope you liked the review.


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