“All that is very well,” answered Candide, “but let us cultivate our garden.”
Candide, by Voltaire
I’m a little hesitant about reviewing classics. What new insights can I have to offer about these centuries-old books, researched and torn apart by academics and popular audiences alike? But then I remind myself about the purpose of my blogging: not only to provide information for others, but to provide information for myself—a record of my own interpretations of books.
I know that people complain about how prolific blogs have become, and how nowadays anyone can just post their thoughts on the Internet, but I personally think that’s exciting. For me, thoughts are unique, not only to the person, but to the moment that they’re set down. It’s neat (for lack of a better word) to have a record of my thoughts on a particular subject at a particular time. There’s a Nelson Mandela quote about how returning to a place unaltered lets you realize how you yourself have changed, and this blog allows me an outlet to feel those emotions virtually. For me, books are pretty unique that way.
In any case, I’ve been on a classics binge lately, and I’m not sure why. I think it’s because since I got my Kindle, I’ve been happily downloading free e-books from the Kindle store, and many of those free e-books are classics. After plodding through heavy titles like The Count of Monte Cristo and Crime and Punishment, Candide was a welcome change of pace, light and refreshing, despite also being from the 1800s. In comparison to the weeks I spent on both of those titles, Candide only took me a week to read. It’s more like a few hours’ read, actually, but I was quite busy this week, with ordinary life getting in the way of reading and blogging.
What can I say about Candide—both the book and the character? As the type of person who tries to remain optimistic in the face of, well, life, I couldn’t help but identify with Candide, who tries to cling to his philosophy of “all is for the best”, despite basically enduring every indignity and danger known to man.
The journey that Candide goes through, nonsensical as it is, ends with possibly the most profound thought I’ve read so far this year: “let us we cultivate our garden.” I guess I’ve always been fond of the life-as-garden metaphor, and I simply liked Candide’s embracing of productivity and his satisfaction at leading a small but productive and well-meaning life.
Other than that, what I enjoyed about Candide was its sarcastic tone, which reads like something written in the modern day (I guess depending on which translation you read). Its many quips, whimsy, and the type of subversive humour used reminded me of Oscar Wilde’s dialogues and essays. I also tend to get annoyed with protagonists who aren’t quick to catch on, but for some reason, Candide didn’t annoy me. I guess as an optimist, I just sympathized with Candide and wanted things to work out for him.
YES OR NO?: YES. But as with most books, I don’t think Candide is for everyone. The fast-moving, erratic plot takes a bit of getting used to, and sometimes characters can be hard to keep track of, but all in all, it makes for a quick read, especially if you’re looking for a classic that won’t take up weeks of your time.