The other day, I was surprised to see that Candide by Voltaire was trending in 2020 on Twitter. It was written in 1759 and I read it many years ago, but I chose to revisit it to see why it is currently quite the rave. I finished it in a couple of days and took copious notes to make sure that I did not miss a beat.
Candide is a young man who is put out of his dwelling after he is caught exchanging kisses behind a screen with Cunégonde, the master’s daughter. He is turned out and his mentor-philosopher Pangloss travels with him as they embark upon many adventures. Though he cannot understand why these things are happening to him, Pangloss constantly assures him that, “All is for best.”
They travel far and wide and Pangloss also tells him that “All effects have a cause.” He sees so many horrors along the way and hears that Cunégonde and her family have been slaughtered. As he carries on, he discovers that she did indeed survive, and his entire goal is to be reunited with his beloved.
Everywhere Candide goes, he witnesses the cruelty that men inflict upon each another. He is baffled when he sees that some of them pray regularly while still being mean and insensitive to his fellow man. He talks to those who have been tortured, lost body parts, enslaved and brought low by life’s circumstances.
He continually looks for the silver lining as he listens to others’ stories. He even meets former kings, princes and sultans who have lost their positions and fortunes. He is shocked by one prominent man who has everything but finds no pleasure in anything nor anyone.
Candide travels from France through Europe and even makes it to South America where he finally finds Cunégonde alive and still beautiful; but before they can reunite, he has to run from the authorities for a murder he had committed along the way. They are separated again and he vows to make it back to her though she is being hotly pursued by a wealthy Argentinian.
Finally, things begin to come full circle and Candide is reunited with other loved ones that he thought had perished. Miracles continue to happen and he again finds his beloved Cunégonde, who is no longer beautiful. Woe!
Yet, life has altered him and his viewpoints and he has learned that, “All is for best.” He has seen through his winding journey that the greatest evils are, “Weariness, vice and want.” He knows that he should not sit idly by, but stay busy. He moves on as he and his new wife cultivate their own garden together!
July 11, 2020