Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Candide: The Leanest, Meanest Man in the West(phalia)

I read Candide. I loved Candide. It was hilarious. Most of it was sex jokes or jabs at France, the Church, philosophy, etc. It was a mean little book. And I think if Voltaire and I had known each other, we would have totally gotten it on.

Check out the nose. He's like Pinocchio, but a genius.
If you DON'T want a summary, at least read this: The world is either a bunch of individual issues, or big global problems. Either way you look at it, it kinda sucks. If you're a realist, you'll be so pessimistic, you're life will never get better; if you're an idealist, you'll be so optimistic, you're life will also never get better. So, just make jelly at a farm. (I don't mean the Destiny's Child kind of jelly. I mean the pickled-fruit variety.)

Anyways, if you didn't read the novella (yeah, i used literary vocabulary, bitches), I'm using my powers for good and offering a summary. (Yes. Enjoying 18th century satire is actually classified as a superpower.) Basically, there's this German idiot named Candide who's in love with Cunegonde, a girl who lives at the castle where he lives, along with some baron-y people and Dr. Pangloss, an over-optimistic philosopher. Candide's mother was kind of a whore, and Cunegonde's name is a French reference to lady parts. So, Candide makes out with Cunegonde, he gets kicked out of the castle, he ends up in the army, leaves the army, uses his army skills in Portugal, gets Inquisition-ized, meets Pangloss again, and learns that Cunegonde was brutally raped. But then he sees Cunegonde days later, living with this old lady whose ass was cut off! Cunegonde then discusses the Jew who had enslaved her. Anti-semitism insues!

Then Pangloss gets killed publicly, Candide winds up in Buenos Aires with Cunegonde and the ass-less lady (who was the bastard daughter of a pope, btw), but then this king or whatever takes Cunegonde for his harem, so Candide meets this servant named Cacambo. They find El Dorado, where people treat gold like pebbles, and then Candide thinks he'll just leave and be rich instead of hanging out in paradise, so he sends Cacambo to go get Cunegonde and meet him in Venice. Then Candide gets robbed, gets on a boat with a pessimist named Martin, meets a whore and a monk in Paris, meets another monk and another whore in Venice, finds Pangloss alive, learns that Cunegonde is in Constantinople, finds Cunegonde, sees that she's ugly, begrudgingly marries her, and then everyone moves in with him and Cunegonde. The old lady is there, too. 

Everyone is really mopey and unhappy until a Turk tells them to farm, because work is the only thing that makes people happy, so then all the characters embroider and can oranges and just get all domestic.

Martha Stewart says that cultivating your mind garden is a good thing.

The book is scathing. Like, anybody can write a parody, but only a genius can write a satire. The whole point is that li'l Candide spends the whole book saying, "Oh! I live in the best of ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS!!!!," ignoring that his life fucking sucks, and everyone he knows also has fucking sucky lives, and they're all selfish, and keep running into abused whores and slaves who got legs cut off to pay for sugar and etc, and kings who were deposed, and etc. Ultimately, Voltaire wants us all to stop with the dang philosophizing -- whether we're optimists or pessimists, he insists, the world won't actually change, and neither will we, and we'll never be happy, anyway. So. we might as well just get to work.

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