This past Monday, I reread Candide. The last time I laid eyes on it, I was a junior in high school. Quite frankly, I didn’t remember much about the book or its author Voltaire, expect that it was a satire on everything that’s wrong with the world. I kept the thin book on my shelf more for the appearance of having it there in full sight — a visible representation of my education and my intellect. How pompous of me.
Having just finished this school year, I decided to read it. It ended up taking me a little less than two days, and how fantastic and wonderful it was! Voltaire’s use of satire, commenting on everything from religion to optimism to war to race and gender, was delightful and incredibly witty and funny. Of course, it’s Voltaire. But I was still surprised.
Although some people think Candide is out dated and is no longer applicable today, I think it provides perspective on current events. Voltaire’s commentary on war and the military is as true today with the unrest in the Middle East as it was in Voltaire’s time with the Seven Years’ War. In addition, his representation of the effects of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 is parallel and can be compared to the effects of recent natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
I was amused to read my high school scribbles and notes in the margins of the book. Most of the scribbles state rather obvious facts or restate what has already been said more eloquently by Voltaire. Reading these side notes made me laugh at my younger self. It reminded me of how much people can grow in as little as five years.
I highly recommend Candide to those who haven’t read it yet, and even more so to those who have.
We must cultivate our garden.
Here’s a treat for those who know and is a fan of American cartoon artist Chris Ware, as well as those who like comics or is interested: