In this splendid new translation of Voltaire’s satiric masterpiece, all the celebrated wit, irony, and trenchant social commentary of one of the great works of the Enlightenment is restored and refreshed.
Voltaire may have cast a jaundiced eye on eighteenth-century Europe–a place that was definitely not the “best of all possible worlds.” But amid its decadent society, despotic rulers, civil and religious wars, and other ills, Voltaire found a mother lode of comic material. And this is why Peter Constantine’s thoughtful translation is such a pleasure, presenting all the book’s subtlety and ribald joys precisely as Voltaire had intended.
The globe-trotting misadventures of the youthful Candide; his tutor, Dr. Pangloss; Martin, and the exceptionally trouble-prone object of Candide’s affections, Cunégonde, as they brave exile, destitution, cannibals, and numerous deprivation, provoke both belly laughs and deep contemplation about the roles of hope and suffering in human life.
The transformation of Candide’s outlook from panglossian optimism to realism neatly lays out Voltaire’s philosophy–that even in Utopia, life is less about happiness than survival–but not before providing us with one of literature’s great and rare pleasures.
About the Author
Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet) (1694—1778) was one of the key thinkers of the European Enlightenment. Of his many works, Candide remains the most popular.
Peter Constantine was awarded the 1998 PEN Translation Award for Six Early Stories by Thomas Mann and the 1999 National Translation Award for The Undiscovered Chekhov: Forty-three New Stories. Widely acclaimed for his recent translation of the complete works of Isaac Babel, he also translated Gogol’s Taras Bulba and Tolstoy’s The Cossacks for the Modern Library. His translations of fiction and poetry have appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, Harper’s, and Paris Review. He lives in New York City.
Praise for Candide: or, Optimism…
“When we observe such things as the recrudescence of fundamentalism in the United States, the horrors of religious fanaticism in the Middle East, the appalling danger which the stubbornness of political intolerance presents to the whole world, we must surely conclude that we can still profit by the example of lucidity, the acumen, the intellectual honesty and the moral courage of Voltaire.”
—A. J. Ayer