Or Optimism, translated by John Butt
'Candide' was the most brilliant challenge to the idea endemic in Voltaire's day, that "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds". It was the indifferent shrug and callous inertia that this "optimism" concealed which so angered Voltaire, who found the "all for the best" approach a patently inadequate response to suffering, to natural disasters - such as the recent earthquakes in Lima and Lisbon - not to mention the questions of illness and man-made war. Moreover, as the rebel whose satiric genius had earned him not only international acclaim, but two stays in the Bastille, flogging and exile, Voltaire knew personally what suffering involved.
In 'Candide' he whisks his young hero and friends through a ludicrous variety of tortures, tragedies and reversals of fortune, in the company of Pangloss, a "metaphysico-theologo-cosmolo-nigologist" of unflinching optimism. The result is one of the glories of eighteenth-century satire.