[Fr. kahn-deed]

Candide, ou l'Optimisme (1759) is a French satire by the Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire, English translations of which have been titled Candide: Or, All for the Best (1759); Candide: Or, The Optimist (1762); and Candide: Or, Optimism (1947). The novella begins with a young man, Candide, who is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with Leibnizian optimism (or simply optimism) by his tutor, Pangloss. The work describes the abrupt cessation of this existence, followed by Candide's slow, painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire concludes with Candide, if not outright rejecting optimism, advocating an enigmatic precept, "we must cultivate our garden", in lieu of the Leibnizian mantra of Pangloss, "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds".

Candide is known for its sarcastic tone and its erratic, fantastical, and fast-moving plot. With a story similar to that of a more serious bildungsroman or picaresque novel, it parodies many adventure and romance clichés, the struggles of which are caricatured in a tone that is mordantly matter-of-fact. Still, the events discussed are often based on historical happenings, such as the Seven Years' War and the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. As philosophers of Voltaire's day contended with the problem of evil, so too does Candide in this short novel, albeit more directly and humourously. Voltaire ridicules religion, theologians, governments, armies, philosophies, and philosophers through allegory; most conspicuously, he assaults Leibniz and his optimism.

As expected by Voltaire, Candide has enjoyed both great success and great scandal. Immediately after its secretive publication, the book was widely banned because it contained religious blasphemy, political sedition and intellectual hostility hidden under a thin veil of naïveté. However, with its sharp wit and insightful portrayal of the human condition, the novel has since inspired many later authors and artists to mimic and adapt it; most notably, Leonard Bernstein produced a 1956 comic operetta whose libretto is closely based on the novella. Today, Candide is recognised as Voltaire's magnum opus and is often listed as part of the Western canon; it is likely taught more than any other work of French literature.

Historical and literary background

A number of deadly historical events inspired Voltaire to write Candide, most notably the Seven Years' War and the 1755 Lisbon earthquake: both are frequently referred to in the book and are cited by scholars as reasons for its composition. The 1755 Lisbon earthquake, tsunami and resulting fires of All Saints' Day had a strong influence on theologians of the day and on Voltaire, who was himself disillusioned by them. The earthquake had an especially large effect on the contemporary doctrine of optimism, a philosophical system which implies that such events should not occur. Optimism is founded on the theodicy of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz that says all is for the best because God is a benevolent deity. This concept is often put into the form, "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds" (Fr. "Tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes possibles"). Philosophers had trouble fitting the horrors of this earthquake into the optimist world view.

Voltaire actively rejected Leibnizian optimism after the natural disaster, convinced that if this were the best possible world, it should surely be better than it is. In both Candide and Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne ("Poem on the Lisbon Disaster"), Voltaire attacks this optimist belief. He makes use of the Lisbon earthquake in both Candide and his Poème to argue this point, sarcastically describing the catastrophe as one of the most horrible disasters "in the best of all possible worlds". Immediately after the earthquake, unreliable rumours circulated around Europe, sometimes overestimating the severity of the event. Ira Wade, a noted expert on Voltaire and Candide, has analysed which sources Voltaire might have referenced in learning of the event. Wade speculates that Voltaire's primary source for information on the Lisbon earthquake was the 1755 work Relation historique du Tremblement de Terre survenu à Lisbonne by Ange Goudar.

Apart from such events, contemporaneous stereotypes of the German personality may have been a source of inspiration for the text, as they were for Simplicius Simplicissimus, a 1669 satirical picaresque novel by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen inspired by the Thirty Years' War. The protagonist of this novel, who was supposed to embody stereotypically German characteristics, is quite similar to the protagonist of Candide. These stereotypes, according to Voltaire biographer Alfred Owen Aldridge, include "extreme credulousness or sentimental simplicity", two of Candide's, and Simplicius's, defining qualities. Aldridge writes, "Since Voltaire admitted familiarity with fifteenth-century German authors who used a bold and buffoonish style, it is quite possible that he knew Simplicissimus as well."

A satirical and parodic precursor of CandideJonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726)—is one of Candide's closest literary relatives. This satire tells the story of "a gullible ingenue", Gulliver, who (like Candide) travels to several "remote nations" and is hardened by the many misfortunes which befall him. As evidenced by similarities between the two books, Voltaire likely drew upon Gulliver's Travels for inspiration while writing Candide. Other probable sources of inspiration for Candide are Télémaque (1699) by François Fénelon and Cosmopolite (1753) by Louis-Charles Fougeret de Monbron. Candide's parody of the bildungsroman is likely based on Télémaque, which includes the prototypical parody of the sagacious tutor on whom Pangloss may have been partly based. Likewise, Monbron's protagonist undergoes a disillusioning series of travels similar to those of Candide.


Born François Marie Arouet, Voltaire (1694–1778), by the time of the Lisbon earthquake, was already a well-established author, known for his satirical wit. He had been made a member of the Académie Française in 1746. He was a deist, a strong proponent of religious freedom, and a critic of what he saw to be tyrannical governments. Candide became part of his large, diverse body of philosophical, political and artistic works expressing these views. More specifically, it was a model for the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century novels called the "contes philosophiques" (En. literally "philosophical tales"). This genre, of which Voltaire was one of the founders, included previous works of his such as Zadig and Micromegas; a conte philosophique is an intellectual critique of society told through an allegory of light fiction, as Candide certainly is.

It is unknown exactly when Voltaire wrote Candide, but scholars estimate that it was primarily composed in late 1758 and begun as early as 1757: Voltaire is believed to have written a portion of it while at his house in Ferney and also while visiting Charles Théodore, the Elector-Palatinate at Schwetzingen, for three weeks in the summer of 1758. Despite solid evidence for these claims, a popular legend persists that Voltaire wrote Candide in three days. This idea is probably based on a misreading of the 1885 work La Vie intime de Voltaire aux Délices et à Ferney by Lucien Perey (real name: Clara Adèle Luce Herpin) and Gaston Maugras. The evidence indicates strongly that Voltaire did not rush nor improvise Candide, but worked on it for a significant period of time, even a whole year. Candide is mature and carefully developed, not impromptu, as the intentionally choppy plot and the aforementioned myth suggest.

There is only one extant manuscript of Candide that was written before the work's 1759 publication; it was discovered in 1956 by Wade and since named the La Vallière Manuscript. It is believed to have been sent, chapter by chapter, by Voltaire to the Duke and Duchess La Vallière in the autumn of 1758. The manuscript was sold to the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal in the late eighteenth century, where it remained undiscovered for almost two hundred years. The La Vallière Manuscript, the most original and authentic of all surviving copies of Candide, was likely dictated by Voltaire to his secretary, Wagnière, then edited directly. In addition to this manuscript, there is believed to have been another, one copied by Wagnière for the Elector Charles-Théodore, who hosted Voltaire during the summer of 1758. The existence of this copy was first postulated by Norman L. Torrey in 1929. If it exists, it remains undiscovered.

Voltaire published Candide simultaneously in five countries no later than 15 January 1759, although the exact date is uncertain. Seventeen versions of Candide from 1759, in the original French, are known today, and there has been great controversy over which is the earliest. More versions were published in other languages: Candide was translated once into Italian and thrice into English that same year. The complicated science of calculating the relative publication dates of all of the versions of Candide is described at length in Wade's article "The First Edition of Candide: A Problem of Identification". The publication process was extremely secretive, likely the "most clandestine work of the century", because of the book's obviously illicit and irreverent content. The greatest number of copies of Candide were published concurrently in Geneva by Cramer, in Amsterdam by Marc-Michel Rey, in London by Jean Nourse, and in Paris by Lambert.

Candide underwent one major revision after its initial publication, in addition to some minor ones. In 1761, a version of Candide was published that included, along with several minor changes, a major addition by Voltaire to the twenty-second chapter, a section that had been thought weak by the Duke of Vallière. The English title of this edition was Candide, or Optimism. Translated from the German of Dr. Ralph. With the additions found in the Doctor's pocket when he died at Minden, in the Year of Grace 1759. The last edition of Candide authorised by Voltaire was the one included in Cramer's 1775 compilation, l'éditions encadrées, meaning "supervised editions".

Voltaire strongly opposed the inclusion of illustrations in his works, as he stated in a 1778 letter to writer and publisher Charles Joseph Panckoucke:

Despite this protest, two sets of illustrations for Candide were produced by French artist Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune. The first version was done, at Moreau's own expense, in 1787 and included in Kehl's publication of that year, Oeuvres Complètes de Voltaire. Four images were drawn by Moreau for this edition and were engraved by Pierre-Charles Baquoy. The second version, in 1803, consisted of seven drawings by Moreau which were transposed by multiple engravers. Twentieth-century modern artist Paul Klee relates it was while reading Candide that he discovered his own artistic style. Klee illustrated the work, and his drawings were published in a 1920 version edited by Kurt Wolff.


Candide contains thirty episodic chapters, which may be grouped into two main schemes: one consists of two divisions, separated by the protagonist's hiatus in El Dorado, the other consists of three parts, each defined by its geographical setting. By the former scheme, the first half of Candide constitutes the rising action and the last part the resolution. This view is supported by the strong theme of travel and quest, reminiscent of adventure and picaresque novels, which tend to employ such a dramatic structure. By the latter scheme, the thirty chapters may be grouped into three parts each comprising ten chapters and defined by locale: I–X are set in Europe, XI–XX are set in the Americas, and XXI–XXX are set in Europe and the Ottoman Empire. The plot summary that follows uses this second format and includes Voltaire's additions of 1761.

The tale of Candide begins in the castle of the Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh in Westphalia, home to the Baron's daughter, Lady Cunégonde; his bastard nephew, Candide; a tutor, Pangloss; a chambermaid, Paquette; and the rest of the Baron's family. The protagonist, Candide (from the Latin candidus), is romantically attracted to Cunégonde. He is a child of "the most unaffected simplicity", whose face is "the index of his mind". Dr. Pangloss, professor of "métaphysico-théologo-cosmolonigologie" and self-proclaimed optimist, may have been based on Luise Dorothea of Saxe-Meiningen, a Leibnizian with whom Voltaire corresponded regularly. The name Pangloss is derived from the Greek words πᾶν (all) and γλῶσσα (tongue), implying the emptiness of this character's statements. Pangloss teaches his pupils that they live in the "best of all possible worlds" and that "all is for the best". These locutions express the fundamental tenets of Leibnizian optimism to which Candide adheres for most of the story: Candide, before his disillusion, thinks himself lucky and the world a good place.

Chapters I–X

All is well in the Baron's castle, until Cunégonde accidentally sees Pangloss sexually engaged with Paquette in some bushes. Encouraged by this show of affection, Cunégonde drops her handkerchief next to Candide which entices him to kiss her. For this infraction, Candide is evicted from the castle, at which point he is captured by Bulgar (Prussian) recruiters and coerced into military service. For attempted desertion, Candide is flogged and nearly executed, before being forced to engage in a large battle between the Bulgars and the Abares (French). Candide successfully escapes the army and makes his way to Holland where he is given aid by Jacques, an Anabaptist, who strengthens Candide's faith in optimism. Soon after, Candide finds his master Pangloss, now a beggar with syphilis. Pangloss reveals he was infected with this disease by Paquette and shocks Candide by relating how Castle Thunder-ten-Tronckh was destroyed by Bulgars, and that Cunégonde and her whole family were killed. Pangloss is cured of his illness by Jacques, losing one eye and one ear in the process, and the three set sail to Lisbon. However, at the end of their journey, they are overtaken by a vicious storm which destroys the boat. The only survivors are Pangloss, Candide, and a "brutish sailor (Fr. "matelot furieux"). Shortly after these three set foot in Lisbon, the city is hit by an earthquake, tsunami and fire which kill tens of thousands.

In the wake of the destruction, Candide and Pangloss are arrested by the Portuguese Inquisition for their uncommon philosophy, and set to be punished in an "auto-da-fé", a ceremony designed to eliminate heretics, appease God and prevent another disaster. Candide is flogged again and sees Pangloss hanged, but another earthquake follows. Candide is then approached by an old woman (Fr. "la vieille") whose name is never revealed. The old woman leads Candide to a house where Lady Cunégonde waits, alive, to relate her story: after Bulgars raided the baron's castle, killed her family, and attacked her, Cunégonde was rescued by a captain who, in turn, sold her to a Jewish merchant and banker, Don Issachar. When Candide finds Cunégonde, her ownership is shared by this Don Issachar and a Grand Inquisitor, each possessing the girl on alternate days of the week. Having heard this story, Candide kills both the Jew and the Inquisitor, then escapes with Cunégonde and the old woman to Cadiz.

Chapters X–XX

The trio embarks for the port at Buenos Aires. In Cadiz, Governor Don Fernando de Ibaraa, y Figueora, y Mascarenes, y Lampurdos, y Suza, asks to marry Cunégonde. Just then, an alcaide (a Portugese fortress commander) arrives in Buenos Aires pursuing Candide for killing the Grand Inquisitor. Candide escapes to Paraguay by following the advice of his practical and heretofore unmentioned manservant Cacambo (from the Spanish word caca). At a border post on the way to Paraguay, Cacambo and Candide speak to the commandant, who turns out to be Cunégonde's brother (who is not named). This brother explains how he was saved by Jesuits and came to be there. The character of this brother is likely based on Frederick the Great, the King of Prussia, with whom Voltaire corresponded. When Candide proclaims he intends to marry Cunégonde, the brother is enraged and strikes Candide with the flat of his sword. Candide then kills him, steals his robe and flees with Cacambo.

Candide and Cacambo wander into El Dorado, a geographically isolated utopia where the streets are covered with precious stones, there exist no priests, and all of the king's jokes are funny. Candide and Cacambo stay a month in El Dorado, but Candide is still in pain without Cunégonde, and expresses to the king his wish to leave. The king points out that this is a foolish idea, but generously helps them do so. The pair continue their journey, now accompanied by one hundred red pack sheep carrying provisions and incredible sums of money, which are slowly lost and stolen. Candide and Cacambo reach Surinam, where they split up: Cacambo travels to Buenos Aires to retrieve Lady Cunégonde, and Candide travels to Venice to wait for his arrival, finding a ship to take him to Bordeaux and despairingly hiring a desperate companion with whom to travel.

Chapters XX–XXX

This companion, Martin, discusses Pangloss's philosophy with Candide and reveals that he himself is a Manichean scholar from Amsterdam. The character of Martin is based on the real-life pessimist Pierre Bayle, who is a chief opponent of Leibniz. For the remainder of the voyage, Martin and Candide argue about philosophy. Upon arrival in France, Candide and Martin stay in Paris for a period before travelling to England and then Venice. There, Candide and Martin meet Paquette, the chambermaid who infected Pangloss with his syphilis. She is now a prostitute, and is spending her time with a monk, Brother Giroflée. Although both appear happy on the surface, they reveal their despair: Paquette has led a miserable existence as a sexual object, and the monk detests the religious order in which he was indoctrinated.

Later, while Candide and Martin are eating supper, Cacambo returns to Candide and informs him that Cunégonde is in Constantinople, and that she has been enslaved. In the twenty-seventh chapter, Candide, Martin, and Cacambo are united and board a ship to Constantinople, on which Cacambo relates Cunégonde's status: she is washing dishes for a prince of Transylvania, and has become ugly. On the way to rescue her, Candide finds Pangloss and Lady Cunégonde's brother rowing in the galley. Candide buys their freedom and further passage at steep prices. The baron and Pangloss relate their survival stories which, despite their horrors, have not shaken Pangloss's optimism. According to the philosopher, "I still hold to my original opinions, because, after all, I'm a philosopher, and it wouldn't be proper for me to recant, since Leibniz cannot be wrong, and since preestablished harmony is the most beautiful thing in the world, along with the plenum and subtle matter." The travellers arrive in Transylvania where they rejoin Cunégonde and the old woman, the former of whom has in fact become hideously ugly; Candide nevertheless buys their freedom and marries Cunégonde to spite her brother. Paquette and Brother Giroflée, too, are reconciled with Candide on a farm which he just bought, his only property remaining.

One day, the protagonists seek out a dervish known as a great philosopher of the land. Pangloss asks him why Man is made to suffer so, and what they all ought to do. The dervish responds by asking rhetorically why Pangloss is concerned about the existence of evil and good. The dervish describes human beings as mice on a ship sent by a king to Egypt; their comfort does not matter to the king. The dervish then slams his door on the group. Returning to their farm, Candide, Pangloss, and Martin meet a Turk whose philosophy is to devote his life only to simple work and not concern himself with external affairs. He and his four children work a small farm to keep "free of three great evils: boredom, vice and necessity". Candide, Pangloss, Martin, Cunégonde, Paquette, the old woman, and Brother Giroflée all set to work (on this "louable dessein", or "commendable plan", as the narrator calls it), each to one specific task. Candide ignores Pangloss's insistence that all turned out for the best by necessity, and he is resolved only that "we must cultivate our garden".


As Voltaire himself described it, the purpose of Candide was to "bring amusement to a small number of men of wit". The author achieves this goal, according to literary critics, by combining his sharp wit with a fun parody of the classic adventure-romance plot. Candide is confronted with horrible events described in painstaking detail so often that it becomes humorous. Literary theorist Frances K. Barasch described Voltaire's matter-of-fact narrative as treating topics such as mass death "as coolly as a weather report". The fast-paced and improbable plot—in which characters repeatedly narrowly escape death, for instance—allows for compounding tragedies to befall the same characters over and over again. In the end, Candide is primarily, as described by Voltaire's biographer Ian Davidson, "short, light, rapid and humorous".

Behind the playful façade of Candide which has amused so many, there lies very harsh criticism of contemporary European civilisation which angered many others. European governments such as France, Prussia, Portugal and England are each attacked ruthlessly by the author: the French and Prussians for the Seven Years' War, the Portuguese for their Inquisition, and the British for the execution of John Byng. Organised religion, too, is harshly treated in Candide. For example, Voltaire mocks the Jesuit order of the Roman Catholic Church. Aldridge provides a characteristic example of such anti-clerical passages for which the work was banned: while in Paraguay, Cacambo remarks, "[The Jesuits] are masters of everything, and the people have no money at all ...". Here, Voltaire suggests the Christian mission in Paraguay is taking advantage of the local population. Voltaire depicts the Jesuits holding the indigenous peoples as slaves while they claim to be helping them.


The main method of Candide's satire is to ironically contrast great tragedy and comedy. The story does not invent or exaggerate evils of the world—it displays real ones starkly, allowing Voltaire to simplify subtle philosophies and cultural traditions, highlighting their flaws. Thus Candide derides optimism, for instance, with a deluge of horrible, historical (or at least plausible) events with no apparent redeeming qualities.

A simple example of the satire of Candide is seen in the treatment of the historical event witnessed by Candide and Martin in Portsmouth harbour. There, the duo spy an admiral, John Byng, being executed for failing to properly engage a French fleet. The admiral is blindfolded and shot in the head on the deck of his own boat, merely "to encourage the others". This depiction of military punishment trivializes Byng's death. The dry, pithy explanation "to encourage the others" thus satirises a serious historical event in characteristically Voltairian fashion. For its classic wit, this phrase has become one of the more often quoted from Candide.

Voltaire depicts the worst of the world and his pathetic hero's desperate effort to fit it into an optimistic outlook. Almost all of Candide is a discussion of various forms of evil: its characters rarely find even temporary respite. There is at least one notable exception: the episode of El Dorado, a fantastic village in which the inhabitants are simply rational, and their society is just and reasonable. The positivity of El Dorado may be contrasted with the pessimistic attitude of most of the book. Even in this case, the bliss of El Dorado is fleeting: Candide soon leaves the village to seek Cunégonde, whom he eventually marries only out of spite.

Another element of the satire focuses on what William F. Bottiglia, author of many published works on Candide, calls the "sentimental foibles of the age" and Voltaire's attack on them. Flaws in European culture are highlighted as Candide parodies adventure and romance clichés, mimicking the style of a picaresque novel. A number of archetypal characters thus have recognisable manifestations in Voltaire's work: Candide is supposed to be the drifting rogue of low social class, Cunégonde the sex interest, Pangloss the knowledgeable mentor and Cacambo the skilful valet. As the plot unfolds, readers find that Candide is no rogue, Cunégonde becomes ugly and Pangloss is a stubborn fool. The characters of Candide are unrealistic, two-dimensional, mechanical, and even marionette-like; they are simplistic and stereotypical. As the initially naïve protagonist eventually comes to a mature conclusion—however noncommittal—the novella is a bildungsroman, if not a very serious one.

Garden motif

Gardens are thought by many critics to play a critical symbolic role in Candide. The first location commonly identified as a garden is the castle of the Baron, from which Candide and Cunégonde are evicted much in the same fashion as Adam and Eve are evicted from the Garden of Eden in Genesis. Cyclically, the main characters of Candide conclude the novel in a garden of their own making, one which might represent celestial paradise. The third most prominent "garden" is El Dorado, which may be a false Eden. Other possibly symbolic gardens include the Jesuit pavilion, the garden of Pococurante, Cacambo's garden, and the Turk's garden.

These gardens are likely references to the Garden of Eden, but it has also been proposed, by Bottiglia, for example, that the gardens refer also to the Encyclopédie, and that Candide's conclusion to cultivate "his garden" symbolises Voltaire's great support for this endeavour. Candide and his companions, as they find themselves at the end of the novella, are in a very similar position to Voltaire's tightly knit philosophical circle which supported the Encyclopédie: the main characters of Candide live in seclusion to "cultivate [their] garden", just as Voltaire suggested his colleagues leave society to write. In addition, there is evidence in the epistolary correspondence of Voltaire that he had elsewhere used the metaphor of gardening to describe writing the Encyclopédie. Another interpretative possibility is that Candide cultivating "his garden" suggests his engaging only in necessary occupations, such as feeding oneself and fighting boredom. This is analogous to Voltaire's own view on gardening: he was himself a gardener at his estates in Les Délices and Ferney, and he often wrote in his correspondence that gardening was an important pastime of his own, it being an extraordinarily effective way to keep busy.



Candide satirises various philosophical and religious theories that Voltaire had previously criticised. Primary among these is Leibnizian optimism (sometimes called Panglossianism after its fictional proponent), which Voltaire ridicules with descriptions of seemingly endless calamity. Voltaire demonstrates a variety of irredeemable evils in the world, leading many critics to contend that Voltaire's treatment of evil—specifically the theological problem of its existence—is the focus of the work. Heavily referenced in the text are the Lisbon earthquake, disease, and the sinking of ships in storms. Also, war, thievery, and murder—evils of human design—are explored as extensively in Candide as are environmental ills. Bottiglia notes Voltaire is "comprehensive" in his enumeration of the world's evils. He is unrelenting in attacking Leibnizian optimism.

Fundamental to Voltaire's attack is Candide's tutor Pangloss, a self-proclaimed follower of Leibniz and a teacher of his doctrine. Ridicule of Pangloss's theories thus ridicules Leibniz himself, and Pangloss's reasoning is silly at best. For example, Pangloss's first teachings of the narrative absurdly mix up cause and effect:

Following such flawed reasoning even more doggedly than Candide, Pangloss defends optimism. Whatever their horrendous fortune, Pangloss reiterates "Tout est pour le mieux" and proceeds to "justify" the evil event's occurrence. A characteristic example of such theodicy is found in Pangloss's explanation of why it is good that syphilis exists:

Candide, the impressionable and incompetent student of Pangloss, often tries to justify evil, fails, invokes his mentor and eventually despairs. It is by these failures that Candide is painfully cured (as Voltaire would see it) of his optimism.

Interestingly, this critique of Voltaire's seems to be directed almost exclusively at Leibnizian optimism. Candide does not ridicule Voltaire's contemporary Alexander Pope, a later optimist of slightly different convictions. Candide does not discuss Pope's optimistic principle that "all is right", but Leibniz's that states, "this is the best of all possible worlds". However subtle the difference between the two, Candide is unambiguous as to which is its subject. Some critics conjecture that Voltaire meant to spare Pope this ridicule out of respect, although Voltaire's Poème may have been written as a more direct response to Pope's theories. This work is similar to Candide in subject matter, but very different to it in style: the Poème embodies a more serious philosophical argument than Candide.


The conclusion of the novella, in which Candide finally dismisses his tutor's optimism, leaves unresolved what philosophy the protagonist is to accept in its stead. This element of Candide has been written about voluminously, perhaps above all others. The conclusion is enigmatic and its analysis is contentious.

Voltaire develops no formal, systematic philosophy for the characters to adopt. The conclusion of the novel may be thought of not as a philosophical alternative to optimism, but as a prescribed practical outlook (though what it prescribes is in dispute). Many critics have concluded that one minor character or another is portrayed as having the right philosophy. For instance, a number believe that Martin is treated sympathetically, and that his character holds Voltaire's ideal philosophy—pessimism. Others disagree, citing Voltaire's negative descriptions of Martin's principles and the conclusion of the work in which Martin plays little part.

Within debates attempting to decipher the conclusion of Candide lies another primary Candide debate. This one concerns the degree to which Voltaire was advocating a pessimistic philosophy, by which Candide and his companions give up hope for a better world. Critics argue that the group's reclusion on the farm signifies Candide and his companions' loss of hope for the rest of the human race. This view is to be compared to a reading that presents Voltaire as advocating a melioristic philosophy and a precept committing the travellers to improving the world through metaphorical gardening. This debate, and others, focuses on the question of whether or not Voltaire was prescribing passive retreat from society, or active industrious contribution to it.

Inside/outside controversy

Separate from the debate about the text's conclusion is the "inside/outside" controversy. This argument centres on the matter of whether or not Voltaire was actually prescribing anything. Roy Wolper, professor emeritus of English, argues in a revolutionary 1969 paper that Candide does not necessarily speak for its author; that the work should be viewed as a narrative independent of Voltaire's history; and that its message is entirely (or mostly) inside it. This point of view, the "inside", specifically rejects attempts to find Voltaire's "voice" in the many characters of Candide and his other works. Indeed, writers have seen Voltaire as speaking through at least Candide, Martin, and the Turk. Wolper argues that Candide should be read with a minimum of speculation as to its meaning in Voltaire's personal life. His article ushered in a new era of Voltaire studies, causing many scholars to look at the novel differently.

Critics such as Lester Crocker, Henry Stavan, and Vivienne Mylne find too many similarities between Candide's point of view and that of Voltaire to accept the "inside" view; they support the "outside" interpretation. They believe that Candide's final decision is the same as Voltaire's, and see a strong connection between the development of the protagonist and his author. Some scholars who support the "outside" view also believe that the isolationist philosophy of the Old Turk closely mirrors that of Voltaire. Others see a strong parallel between Candide's gardening at the conclusion and the gardening of the author. Martine Darmon Meyer argues that the "inside" view fails to see the satirical work in context, and that denying that Candide is primarily a mockery of optimism (a matter of historical context) is a "very basic betrayal of the text".


Though Voltaire did not openly admit to having written the controversial Candide until 1768 (until then he signed with a pseudonym: "Monsieur le docteur Ralph", or "Doctor Ralph), his authorship of the work was hardly disputed. Immediately after publication, the work and its author were denounced by both secular and religious authorities, because the book openly derides government and church alike. It was because of such polemics that Omer-Louis-François Joly de Fleury, who was Advocate General to the Parisian parlement when Candide was published, found parts of Candide to be "contrary to religion and morals".

Despite much official indictment, soon after its publication, Candide's irreverent prose was being quoted. "Let us eat a Jesuit", for instance, became a popular phrase for its reference to a humorous passage in Candide. By the end of February 1759, The Great Council of Geneva and the administrators of Paris had banned Candide. Candide nevertheless succeeded in selling twenty thousand to thirty thousand copies by the end of the year in over twenty editions, making it a best seller. The Duke de La Vallière speculated near the end of January 1759 that Candide might have been the fastest-selling book ever. In 1762, Candide was listed in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, the Roman Catholic Church's list of prohibited books.

Bannings of Candide lasted into the twentieth-century in the United States, where the work has long been considered a seminal work of Western literature. At least once, Candide was temporarily barred from entering America: in February 1929, a US customs official in Boston prevented a number of copies of the book, deemed "obscene", from reaching a Harvard University French class. Candide was admitted in August of the same year; however by that time the class was over. In an interview soon after Candide's detention, the official who confiscated the book explained the office's decision to ban it, "... But about 'Candide,' I'll tell you. For years we've been letting that book get by. There were so many different editions, all sizes and kinds, some illustrated and some plain, that we figured the book must be all right. Then one of us happened to read it. It's a filthy book ...".


Candide is the most widely read of Voltaire's many works, and it is considered one of the great achievements of Western literature. However, Candide is not necessarily considered a true "classic". According to Bottiglia, "The physical size of Candide, as well as Voltaire's attitude toward his fiction, precludes the achievement of artistic dimension through plenitude, autonomous '3D' vitality, emotional resonance, or poetic exaltation. Candide, then, cannot in quantity of quality, measure up to the supreme classics." Bottiglia instead calls it a miniature classic, though others are more forgiving of its size. As the only work of Voltaire which has remained popular up to the present day, Candide is listed in The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages. It has been named one of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and one of the 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written. It is included in the Encyclopædia Britannica collection Great Books of the Western World. Candide has had a significant influence on modern writers of black humour such as Céline, Joseph Heller, John Barth, Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut, and Terry Southern. Its parody and picaresque methods have become favourites of black humorists.

Charles Brockden Brown, an early American novelist, may have been directly affected by Voltaire, whose work he knew well. Mark Kamrath, professor of English, describes the strength of the connection between Candide and Edgar Huntly; or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker (1799): "An unusually large number of parallels ... crop up in the two novels, particularly in terms of characters and plot." For instance, the protagonists of both novels are romantically involved with a recently orphaned young woman. Furthermore, in both works the brothers of the female lovers are Jesuits, and each is murdered (although under different circumstances). Some twentieth-century novels that may have been influenced by Candide are dystopian science-fiction works. Armand Mattelart, a French critic, sees Candide in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Yevgeny Zamyatin's We, three canonical works of the genre. Specifically, Mattelart writes that in each of these works, there exist references to Candide's popularisation of the phrase "the best of all possible worlds". He cites as evidence, for example, that the French version of Brave New World was entitled Le Meilleur des mondes (En. literally "The best of worlds").

Readers of Candide often compare it with certain works of the modern genre the Theatre of the Absurd. Haydn Mason, a Voltaire scholar, sees in Candide a few similarities to this brand of literature. For instance, he notes commonalities of Candide and Waiting for Godot (1952). In both of these works, and in a similar manner, friendship provides emotional support for characters when they are confronted with harshness of their existences. However, Mason qualifies, "... the conte must not be seen as a forerunner of the 'absurd' in modern fiction. Candide's world is full of ridiculous and meaningless elements, but human beings are not totally deprived of the ability tomake [sic] sense out of it." John Pilling, biographer of Beckett, does state that Candide was an early and powerful influence on Beckett's thinking.

Derivative works

In 1760, one year after Voltaire published Candide, a sequel was published with the name Candide, ou l'optimisme, seconde partie. This work is attributed both to Thorel de Campigneulles, a writer unknown today, and Henri Joseph Du Laurens, who is suspected of having habitually plagiarised Voltaire. The story continues in this sequel with Candide having new adventures in the Ottoman Empire, Persia, and Denmark. Part II has potential use in studies of the popular and literary receptions of Candide, but is almost certainly apocryphal. In total, by the year 1803, at least ten imitations of Candide or continuations of its story were published by authors other than Voltaire.

Candide the operetta was originally conceived by playwright Lillian Hellman, as a play with incidental music. Leonard Bernstein, the American composer and conductor who wrote the music was so excited about the project that he convinced Hellman to do it as a "comic operetta". Many lyricists worked on the show, including James Agee, Dorothy Parker, John Latouche, Richard Wilbur, Leonard and Felicia Bernstein, and Hellman. Hershy Kay orchestrated all the pieces except for the overture, which Bernstein did himself.

Candide first opened on Broadway as a musical on 1 December 1956. The premier production was directed by Tyrone Guthrie and conducted by Samuel Krachmalnick. While this production was a box office flop, the music was highly praised, and an original cast album was made. The album gradually became a cult hit, but Hellman's libretto was criticised as being too serious an adaptation of Voltaire's novel. Candide would be more popular seventeen years later with a new libretto by Hugh Wheeler.

Candido ovvero un sogno fatto in Sicilia (1977) or simply Candido is a book by Leonardo Sciascia. It was at least partly based on Voltaire's Candide, although the actual influence of Candide on Candido is a hotly debated topic. A number of theories on the matter have been proposed. Proponents of one say that Candido is very similar to Candide, only with a happy ending; supporters of another claim that Voltaire provided Sciascia with only a starting point from which to work, that the two books are quite distinct.

Nedim Gürsel wrote his 2001 novel Le voyage de Candide à Istanbul about a minor passage in Candide during which its protagonist meets Ahmed III, the deposed Turkish sultan. This chance meeting on a ship from Venice to Istanbul is the setting of Gürsel's book. Terry Southern, in writing his popular novel Candy, adapted Candide for a modern audience and changed the protagonist from male to female. Candy deals with the rejection of a sort of optimism which the author sees in women's magazines of the modern era; Candy also parodies pornography and popular psychology. This adaptation of Candide was itself adapted for the cinema by director Christian Marquand in 1968.

In addition to the above, Candide was made into a number of minor films and theatrical adaptations throughout the twentieth century. For a list of these, see Voltaire: Candide ou L'Optimisme et autres contes (1989) with preface and commentaries by Pierre Malandain.



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Further reading

  • Adorno, Theodor W. (1970). Negative Dialectics. Suhrkamp Verlag.
  • Betts, C. J. (1985). "On the Beginning and Ending of Candide". The Modern Language Review 80 (2): 283–292.
  • Cates, David Allan Comparing Candide and X Out of Wonderland. Retrieved on 2008-01-06..
  • Gullace, Giovanni (1985). Il Candide nel pensiero di Voltaire. Società editrice napoletana.
  • Gullette, Cameron C. (1934). "Fanfluche - Cousin of Candide". The French Review 8 (2): 93–107.
  • Henry, Patrick "Travel in Candide: Moving On But Going Nowhere". Papers on Language & Literature 13 (2): 193–197. EBSCO Accession Number 7728974.
  • Henry, Patrick "Time in Candide". Studies in Short Fiction 14 (1): 86–8. EBSCO Accession Number 7150968.
  • Henry, Patrick "Working in Candide's Garden". Studies in Short Fiction 14 (2): 183–184. EBSCO Accession Number 7153217.
  • Henry, Patrick (1987). "Contre Barthes". Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 249 Retrieved on 2007-07-10.

  • Howells, R. J. (1985). ""Cette Boucherie Héroïque": "Candide" as Carnival". The Modern Language Review 80 (2): 293–303.
  • Kirby, David "The new Candide or what I learned in the theory wars". Virginia Quarterly Review 69 (3): p393, 15p. EBSCO Accession Number 9308316577.
  • Lynch, James J. (1985). "Romance Conventions in Voltaire's Candide". South Atlantic Review 50 (1): 35–46.
  • Marsh, Leonard "Voltaire's Candide". Explicator 62 (3): 144–146. EBSCO Accession Number 13275608.
  • Oake, Roger B. "Review of "Voltaire and Candide"". Comparative Literature 13 (2): 176–178.
  • Scherr, Arthur "Voltaire's Candide". Explicator 59 (2): 225. EBSCO Accession Number 4423176.
  • Sturm, Mary J.; Parsell, David B. (2001). Critical Survey of Short Fiction. Second Revised, Salem Press, Inc.. ISBN 0-89356-006-5; EBSCO Accession Number MOL0120000549.

External links


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