Initially denied burial on church ground for his tireless criticism, Voltaire is interred in the hearts of philosophers, satirists and civil reformers. During the course of my 50 Classics project I got re-familiarize myself with one of the works that earned him this position; Candide, or Optimism. The novel has its roots in Voltaire’s extreme objection with the philosophical beliefs of Gottfried Leibniz (one of the major forces in the school of Optimism). Voltaire is not economic in his sardonic adventure, however. Practically every religion, private & public organization, philosophy, tradition and nearly every nation of the known world is granted at least a passing jab in Candide.
With all this ground to cover it’s not surprising that the pace of Candide is very fast, almost cinematic. I had no trouble at all imagining the whole affair translated into a “zany” if somewhat highbrow movie in our day and age; perhaps a collaboration of Mel Brooks and Stanley Kubrick.
In any case, I think Candide is linguistically accessible for a modern reader but if you really want to extract the full effect of the novel, I suggest approaching it well-armed. Heavily foot-noted versions will help the reader appreciate exactly who and what Voltaire’s more subtle passages refer to and also put in context just how one man made so many enemies to file away for future lampooning.