Il faut cultiver notre jardin

This is my review of Candide Voltaire Larousse by Voltaire.

Having discovered "Candide" through a recent lecture on Voltaire's role in the Enlightenment, I would say that it is definitely worth reading, ideally in French. On one level this satirical account of the surreal experiences of a naive and optimistic young man seem very dated and rather silly. On the other hand, put in the context of C18 Europe, it is Voltaire's scathing exposure of the corruption and intolerance of his age, and a justification of reason and open-mindedness. He was genuinely moved by the catastrophic Lisbon earthquake in 1755, clear grounds for refuting the philosopher Liebnitz's simplistic belief in "théodicée", a perfect God, who had created everything for the best in "le meilleur des mondes possibles" as parrotted by the buffoonish Professeur Pangloss. It is fascinating to realise that Voltaire's work was seized by the authorities for its dangerous principles as regards religion and tendency to deprave public morals – yet it still managed to be a bestseller. In these troubled times, Voltaire's concerns remain surprisingly relevant.

I particularly enjoyed the bored Venetian killjoy Pococuranté, sated with privilege and pleasure, disgusted by all his possessions and finding pleasure only in criticising everything – again, a character for any age.

This well-presented book is value for money, with useful footnotes to explain more archaic terms, clear explanation of the context, and in the final section "Pour approfondir" a detailed dissection of the text to assist those unfortunate enough to need to study it for the Bac, which I am glad not to have to do as it could just turn one off this work for ever.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars

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