Sunday, April 15, 2007

March: Candide

After visiting the crypt at the Panthéon in Paris, I added Voltaire to my substantial mental list of authors whose works I would like to read. I know...a somewhat strange way of being turned on to a particular writer. But there really is something powerful about visiting the crypts of great writers, particularly when you know they were once shunned by their country and are now highly celebrated. It seems such a grand French thing to do...exile a writer and then years later, celebrate and proudly claim him as French.

Candide, also known as Optimism, is a satire featuring the incredibly naïve optimist Candide. The satire follows Candide through a multitude of adventures which he constantly measures against the canon that, "all is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds." Voltaire clearly and strongly attacks political and religious systems in this satire (and is imprisoned for doing so), as well as the precepts held by specific philosophers, namely Leibniz.

I really don't know that I've read a satire before this one. Maybe I've read excerpts of satirical works but I've just never been drawn to that particular form of writing. However, I did enjoy the mental exercise required in reading Candide and have a new appreciation for satire. There was constant referencing of the footnotes and lengthy pauses in which I ruminated upon the context. In doing so, a greater sense of what took place in Voltaire's time was revealed through his persepctive and I often gain a greater sense of history through personal accounts (whatever the medium and how varied the perspective might be). Freedom of speech was not a liberty in Voltaire's time and constant awareness of that fact makes his work even more momentous. His not so allusive innuendos where government and religion are concerned must have been potent in their time.

Philosophically, Candide challenged my conception of the world. How do I view the world? I certainly do not possess the optimism of Candide but I see a constant beauty in humanity. Yet, I also see how political and religious forces work in powerfully deceptive ways and the way in which Voltaire satirizes such is not only amusing but very apt.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a stellar read. I felt bad that no one wants to weigh on on your blog so thought I would give you a quick sound byte.

b said...

anonymous...oh no! a pity comment! haha. thanks for the support. have you read candide or any of the other books i bore my blogging friends with? :)

Anonymous said...

No pity whatsoever B. I am actually enjoying this read. Check it out.

http://www.amazon.com/Best-Rick-James/dp/0634050397

All I have to say is RIP to the Funk King.

b said...

anonymous...haha. smooth read, i imagine! ;-)

Tumuli said...

Voltaire's philosophy has always intrigued me, yet I have never sought out his work. After your incisive analysis, however, I must do so sooner rather than later.

Richard said...

I decided I should read somethign about Voltaire before commenting (considering I had Mirales and Idolatry sitting in my bedroom).

It was a pretty god read. Some essays were better than others.

Like most, my familiarity of Voltaire is pretty much limited to I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

With which I disagree. I will not defend, nor do I think anyone has the right to say something utterly stupid.

Still can't access you from work. I think it must be the naked caddies.

b said...

Tumuli...i think you are being far too kind when you call my analysis "incisive," but thank you! yes, i too was intrigued by voltaire's philosophy, as i never had a very clear idea as to what he propounded. and i still would like to read some more of his work to gain a better understanding of his general philosophy. let me know when you do, as i'd like to hear your thoughts.

Richard...i agree with your position on voltaire's quote. a relevant and recent example that immediately comes to mind is don imus's asinine remarks about the women's basketball team at rutgers. i've heard many argue that he is entitled to freedom of speech and that defense makes me sick. freedom of speech should not defend nor allow for hatefulness. just because you can physically utter something, doesn't mean that you should.

wow...i never knew the naked caddies post would cause so much trouble!

Anonymous said...

Imus's comments were not hateful, but rather disrespectful. To the african american race and women. I do not agree with his comments whatsoever but do not think they were out of spite or hatrid.

b said...

anonymous...Perhaps hateful is a strong term but I don't think it is entirely unreasonable either. Oxford American Dictionaries defines disrespectful and hateful with the following synonyms:

disrespectful: discourteous, rude, impolite, uncivil, ill-mannered, bad-mannered, insolent, impudent, impertinent, cheeky, insubordinate, cheeky, flippant

hateful: detestable, horrible, horrid, unpleasant, awful, nasty, disagreeable, despicable, objectionable, abhorent, abominable, odious, disgusting, vile, obnoxious, revolting


Of course, there is subjectivity of interpretation and only Imus knows the true thrust behind his comment. Regardless, in my opinion, his comments go beyond disrespect. Something obviously compels a person to utter such things and I don't buy that it is merely said to be "funny." There is nothing lighthearted or innocent about what he said. I think labeling it "disrespectful" is wanting.

If someone walks in front of me through a doorway and knowingly lets the door slam in my face, I consider that disrespectful. Of course, there are many levels of disrespect, but where racism, sexism, or any discrimination is involved...there is much more at stake. And the cycle only perpetuates when we are willing to diminish the significance of such strong comments.

Racism, sexism, discrimination...all perpetuate in a myriad of ways. Words are very powerful and a seasoned radio personality knows that.

Richard said...

I would just prefer to say his comment was stupid and leave it at that.