Saturday, May 1, 2010

Candide (and other stories)

I was intrigued by some reviews which said that Candide was a very funny book. I found a used book which also contained more works by Voltaire. After reading this book, I must say that I agree with the reviewers, that this book is very funny. In my opinion, it's funnier than Henry Fielding's Tom Jones. The humour suits my taste. It's one of the most funniest I have read, actually, and now I know why reviewers for French movies sometimes mention Voltaire's influence when a movie has hilarious dialogues.

There are 5 stories in this book. Except Micromegas, the stories are about people in the search of happiness. 

1. Candide or Optimism
Candide was a young boy, brought up by a baron. He fell in love with the baron's daughter, but was refused because of his status. He traveled around the world, but always remembered the beautiful lady. Even in Eldorado, where life seemed perfect, Candide never forgot her. However, after he finally won her, he realized that he was actually happiest in Eldorado, and that he loved her only because it was his duty. Is it true then, that "All events form a chain in the best of all possible worlds."?

2. Micromegas - A Philosophical Story
This is the one I like less. Perhaps I just don't like the amount of philosophy poured in the story. Actually it reminds me of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Le petit prince. Micromegas was an intelligent young man lived in one of the planets which orbit the star Sirius. He met the Secretary of the Saturnian Academy in Saturn, and both traveled to the Earth and had a discussion with humans.

3. Zadig or Destiny
This is my favourite among the 5. Zadig, a Babylonian, was a wise man who was also tolerant, rich, and generous. [This character reminds me of Abu Nawas from 1001 Nights] He suffered a series of unfortunate events, but always be able to narrowly escape. In chapter 18, he met angel Jesrad who enlightened him that "everything you see down here, on this little speck of dust where you have been born, necessarily occupies its own appointed place and time in accordance with the immutable laws of Him who embraces all things." Zadig got his happy ending, married the woman he loved and became the king of Babylon.

4. The Ingenu
A Huron, nicknamed The Ingenu, came to France and the people tried to christen him and make him civilized. He got confused because the laws of the civilized people have many contradictions. "I notice every day how you all do a whole host of things  which are not in that book of yours (=Bible), and how you don't do the things it does say." There was a tragic love story between The Ingenu and the sister of the abbé de Saint-Yves.

5.The White Bull
In the book of Daniel, there is a story about King Nebuchadnezzar who was punished because he was too proud. "That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws." (Daniel 4:33). The White Bull is the story of Princess Amasida, daughter of King of Tanis in Egypt, who lost her lover 7 years previously. The lover was King Nebuchadnezzar, whose name she was forbidden to speak, or her father would cut off her head. One day she met a handsome white bull who cried when it saw her. Her father, thought that the princess was possessed, planned to sacrify the bull. In this story there are also animals from the Bible stories.

No comments: