“Let us cultivate our garden…”

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I’m not an expert on the French philosopher and writer Voltaire but by all accounts he was a bit of LAD. The fact that he precedes such luminaries as Prince, Madonna and Cher in going by one name shows how influential he has been. I imagine Bono, Sting and Coolio are also massive fans…

Candide is the nephew of a German baron who grows up under the tutelage of the eternal optimist Pangloss. The tutors sunny disposition is put to the test in a series of ever more outlandish and painful events as seemingly everyone around Candide is murdered or imprisoned in a manner that would make Job blush.

Voltaire’s language is as beautiful as it is scathing with the philosophical optimists of the time savaged by reason and fact. Candide can be a little repetitive but that only epitomises the cyclic nature of misery and pain. The book veers wildly between nihilism and anarchy while somehow managing to be funny at the same time. To say this classic work was originally published in 1759, it is a remarkably easy read and I got through the whole thing in a couple of days (this is more a reflection of the fact that I have nothing to do with my spare time than anything else however to be fair).

I’d certainly never read it again but Candide works as an introductory slice of the Age of Enlightenment that isn’t too time consuming or difficult.