Saturday, June 02, 2007

Lunchtime read: Candide

Although the wit here might have aged a bit there are still some funny lines and a strange sense that Candide’s optimism is going to be stretched to the absolute limit along with his belief that things happen for a reason.

Using the facts of the Lisbon earthquake that killed 50,000 people, that the introduction points out had already been used by Voltaire for satirical purposes with some outcry, it appears again but this time it is used as an example by the philosopher Pangloss that things happen for a reason and man cannot stop his destiny. A theory he ends up finding works against you as well as in your favour.

Highlights from chapters V to X

* Having travelled to Lisbon in a terrible storm that kills all of the crew and passengers apart from Candide, his mentor Pangloss and a sailor they arrive in Lisbon just in time for a devastating earthquake that kills tens of thousands

* In an unguarded conversation Pangloss happens to tell the head of the inquisition that these things happen for a reason and he does not believe in mortal sin – a move that results in him being hanged and Candide being flogged for being an approving observer

* But the flogging at least provides a chance for him to be reunited with his love Cunegonde who explains that after being raped and orphaned by soldiers she is now living at the joint expense of a wealthy Jew and the head of the inquisition

* The Jew arrives first and is killed by Candide and then the head of the inquisition is also run through with the young man’s sword and the lovers plus the girl’s old maid run off and head for a life in the new world

More tomorrow…

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