The frontispiece of the 1759 edition published by Sirène in Paris, which reads, "Candide, or Optimism, translated from the German of Dr. Ralph."[1][2]
Original titleCandide, ou l'Optimisme
IllustratorJean-Michel Moreau le Jeune
GenreConte philosophique; satire; picaresque novel; bildungsroman
Publisher1759: Cramer, Marc-Michel Rey, Jean Nourse, Lambert, and others
Publication date
January 1759[3][4]

Candide, ou l'Optimisme, (d/; French: [kɑ̃did]) is a French satire first published in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment.[5] The novella has been widely translated, with English versions titled Candide: or, All for the Best (1759); Candide: or, The Optimist (1762); and Candide: Optimism (1947).[6] It begins with a young man, Candide, who is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with Leibnizian optimism by his mentor, Professor Pangloss.[7] The work describes the abrupt cessation of this lifestyle, followed by Candide's slow and painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire concludes with Candide, if not rejecting Leibnizian optimism outright, advocating a deeply practical 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 characterized by its tone as well as by its erratic, fantastical, and fast-moving plot. A picaresque novel with a story similar to that of a more serious coming-of-age narrative (Bildungsroman), it parodies many adventure and romance clichés, the struggles of which are caricatured in a tone that is bitter and matter-of-fact. Still, the events discussed are often based on historical happenings, such as the Seven Years' War and the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.[8] As philosophers of Voltaire's day contended with the problem of evil, so does Candide in this short novel, albeit more directly and humorously. Voltaire ridicules religion, theologians, governments, armies, philosophies, and philosophers. Through Candide, he assaults Leibniz and his optimism.[9][10]

As predicted by Voltaire[citation needed] Candide has enjoyed both great success and great scandal. Immediately after its secretive publication, the book was widely banned to the public because it contained religious blasphemy, political sedition, and intellectual hostility hidden under a thin veil of naïveté.[9] 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. Today, Candide is recognized as Voltaire's magnum opus[9] and is often listed as part of the Western canon. It is among the most frequently taught works of French literature.[11] The British poet and literary critic Martin Seymour-Smith listed Candide as one of the 100 most influential books ever written.

Historical and literary background

A number of historical events inspired Voltaire to write Candide, most notably the publication of Leibniz's "Monadology", a short metaphysical treatise, the Seven Years' War, and the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. Both of the latter catastrophes are frequently referred to in Candide and are cited by scholars as reasons for its composition.[12] 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 and 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 their optimistic world view.[13]

This 1755 copper engraving shows the ruins of Lisbon in flames and a tsunami overwhelming the ships in the harbour.

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.[14] In both Candide and Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne ("Poem on the Lisbon Disaster"), Voltaire attacks this optimist belief.[13] 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".[15] 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 analyzed 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.[16]

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 written by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen and 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.[2] 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."[2]

A satirical and parodic precursor of Candide, Jonathan 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 probably drew upon Gulliver's Travels for inspiration while writing Candide.[17] 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 probably based on Télémaque, which includes the prototypical parody of the tutor on whom Pangloss may have been partly based. Likewise, Monbron's protagonist undergoes a disillusioning series of travels similar to those of Candide.[2][18][19]

Other Languages
বাংলা: কনদিদ
brezhoneg: Candide
Cebuano: Candide
čeština: Candide
Cymraeg: Candide
dansk: Candide
Ελληνικά: Αγαθούλης
español: Cándido
فارسی: کاندید
français: Candide
한국어: 캉디드
Bahasa Indonesia: Candide
íslenska: Birtíngur
italiano: Candido
עברית: קנדיד
Latina: Candide
latviešu: Kandids
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magyar: Candide
македонски: Кандид
മലയാളം: കാൻഡീഡ്
Nederlands: Candide
norsk: Candide
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਕਾਂਦੀਦ
slovenščina: Kandid ali Optimizem
suomi: Candide
svenska: Candide
Türkçe: Candide
українська: Кандід
اردو: کاندید
中文: 憨第德
Lingua Franca Nova: Candido