Candide - Voltaire If you’ve been fairly fortunate in life, Candide can seem like an oddly humorous book. Satirical and comical. If you’ve had a fair amount of shitty things happen in your life, Candide is a well-found commiseration against those same annoying fortunate people who eagerly want to console you that God does everything for a reason.

Voltaire rejects optimism. Totally and without apology. Doctor Pangloss, and his Candide coined panglossian viewpoint, is ruthlessly shredded by the misfortunes suffered by all the characters. However, I’m not sure if Voltaire really has a purpose for his rejection of optimism. One wonders, as mentioned by Martin, whether Voltaire simply finds that “there is some pleasure in having no pleasure.” pg. 73. Without spoilers, I think it’s safe to say the book is ultimately ambiguous in its final message.

There are some larger social messages at play here as well. Voltaire attacks the pretentions of the Enlightenment and the adherence to classics like Homer, Virgil and Milton. He shows the ephemeral entitlements of kings, the inhuman cost of slavery and the hypocrisy of the Church. As fitting the Age of Reason, it challenges us to reason. In a satirical, to hell-with-you kind of way.

Regardless, whether Life has been good to you or not, there are some great lines to take away from this little book. It’s absurd and scandalous and makes a call to eat a Jesuit. Not many books can successfully deliver that line.