Short summary - Candide: or, The Optimist - Voltaire, pseudonym of François-Marie Arouet

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Candide: or, The Optimist
Voltaire, pseudonym of François-Marie Arouet

Candide, a pure and sincere youth, is brought up in an impoverished castle of a beggar but vain Westphalian baron along with his son and daughter. Their home teacher, Dr. Pangloss, a homegrown metaphysical philosopher, taught children that they live in the best of worlds, where everything has cause and effect, and events tend to a happy ending.

Candida's misfortunes and his incredible travels begin when he is expelled from the castle for his fascination with the beautiful daughter of the Baron Kunigunda.

In order not to starve to death, Candide is recruited into the Bulgarian army, where he is flogged to a pulp. He barely escapes death in a terrible battle and escapes to Holland. There he meets his philosophy teacher dying of syphilis. He is being treated out of mercy, and he gives Candida the terrible news of the extermination of the Baron's family by the Bulgarians. For the first time, Candide questions the optimistic philosophy of his teacher, so shocking is his experienced and terrible news. Friends sail to Portugal, and as soon as they step ashore, a terrible earthquake begins. Wounded, they fall into the hands of the Inquisition for preaching about the need for free will for man, and the philosopher must be burned at the stake in order to help pacify the earthquake. Candida is whipped with rods and left to die in the street. An unfamiliar old woman picks him up, nurses him and invites him to a luxurious palace, where his beloved Kunigunda meets him. It turned out that she miraculously survived and was resold by the Bulgarians to a wealthy Portuguese Jew, who was forced to share it with the Grand Inquisitor himself. Suddenly a Jew, the owner of Kunigunda, appears in the doorway. Candide kills first him, and then the Grand Inquisitor. All three decide to flee, but on the way, some monk steals from Kunigunda the jewelry presented to her by the Grand Inquisitor. They hardly get to the port and there they board a ship sailing to Buenos Aires. There, first of all, they look for the governor in order to get married, but the governor decides that such a beautiful girl should belong to him, and makes her an offer, which she would not mind accepting. At the same moment, the old woman sees through the window how the monk who has robbed them descends from the ship that has approached the harbor and tries to sell the jewelry to the jeweler, but he recognizes them as the property of the Grand Inquisitor. Already at the gallows, the thief confesses to theft and describes our heroes in detail. Servant Candida Kakambo persuades him to flee immediately, not without reason, believing that the women will somehow get out. They are sent to the possessions of the Jesuits in Paraguay, who profess Christian kings in Europe, and here they reclaim their land. In the so-called father, Colonel Candide recognizes the baron, brother of Kunigunda. He also miraculously survived after the massacre in the castle and, by the whim of fate, found himself among the Jesuits. Learning about Candida's desire to marry his sister, the baron tries to kill the low-born impudent man, but he himself falls wounded. Candide and Kakambo flee and are captured by wild oreillons, who, thinking that their friends are the servants of the Jesuits, are going to eat them. Candide proves that he has just killed the colonel's father, and again escapes death. So life again confirmed the correctness of Kakambo, who believed that a crime in one world could be beneficial in another.

On the way from the oreilons, Candide and Kakambo, having lost their way, find themselves in the legendary land of El Dorado, about which there were wonderful fables in Europe that gold was no more valuable there than sand. Eldorado was surrounded by impregnable rocks, so no one could penetrate there, and the inhabitants themselves never left their country. In this way they retained their original moral purity and bliss. Everyone seemed to live in contentment and gaiety; people worked peacefully, there were no prisons or crimes in the country. In prayers, no one asked for blessings from the Almighty, but only thanked Him for what he already had. No one acted under duress: the tendency to tyranny was absent both in the state and in the characters of people. When meeting with the monarch of the country, guests usually kissed him on both cheeks. The king persuades Candida to stay in his country, because it is better to live where you like. But friends really wanted to appear in their homeland as rich people, and also to connect with Kunigunda. The king, at their request, gives his friends a hundred sheep laden with gold and gems. An amazing machine transports them across the mountains, and they leave the blessed land, where in fact everything is for the better, and which they will always regret.

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As they move from the borders of El Dorado to the city of Suriname, all but two of the sheep die. In Suriname, they learn that in Buenos Aires they are still wanted for the murder of the Grand Inquisitor, and Kunigunda has become the governor's favorite concubine. Almost all of his treasures are stolen by a fraudulent merchant, and the judge still punishes him with a fine. After these incidents, the baseness of the human soul once again plunges into horror Candida. Therefore, the young man decides to choose the most unfortunate person, offended by fate, as a companion. He considered this to be Martin, who, after the troubles he had endured, became a deep pessimist. They sail to France together, and on the way Martin convinces Candida that it is human nature to lie, kill and betray his neighbor, and everywhere people are equally unhappy and suffer from injustice.

In Paris, Candide gets acquainted with local customs and customs. Both are very disappointing to him, and Martin only strengthens his philosophy of pessimism. Candida is immediately surrounded by fraudsters, with flattery and deception they pull money out of him. At the same time, everyone enjoys the incredible gullibility of the young man, which he retained, despite all the misfortunes. He tells one rogue about his love for the beautiful Kunigunda and his plan to meet her in Venice. In response to his sweet frankness, Candida set up a trap, he faces prison, but, having bribed the guards, the friends escape on a ship sailing to England. On the English coast, they observe a completely senseless execution of an innocent admiral. From England, Candide finally finds himself in Venice, thinking only of meeting his beloved Kunigunda. But there he finds not her, but a new sample of human sorrows - a servant from his native castle. Her life leads to prostitution, and Candide wants to help her with money, although the philosopher Martin predicts that none of this will work. As a result, they meet her in an even more distressing state. The realization that suffering is inevitable for all makes Candida seek a person who is alien to sorrow. One noble Venetian was considered such. But, having visited this person, Candide is convinced that happiness for him is in criticism and dissatisfaction with others, as well as in the denial of any beauty. Finally, he finds his Kakambo in the most pitiable position. He says that, having paid a huge ransom for Kunigunda, they were attacked by pirates, and they sold Kunigunda to serve in Constantinople. Worse, she lost all her beauty. Candide decides that, as a man of honor, he must still find a beloved, and goes to Constantinople. But on the ship, among the slaves, he recognizes Dr. Pangloss and the baron who was personally stabbed to death. They miraculously escaped death, and fate brought them together as slaves on a ship in difficult ways. Candide immediately buys them out and gives the remaining money for Kunigunda, an old woman and a small farm.

Although Kunigunda became very ugly, she insisted on marrying Candide. The small society had no choice but to live and work on the farm. Life was truly painful. Nobody wanted to work, boredom was terrible, and all that remained was to philosophize endlessly. They argued over whether it was preferable to subject themselves to as many terrible trials and vicissitudes of fate as those they had experienced, or to condemn themselves to the terrible boredom of an inactive life. No one knew a worthy answer. Pangloss lost faith in optimism, while Martin, on the contrary, became convinced that people everywhere were equally ill, and endured difficulties with humility. But then they meet a man who lives a closed life on his farm and is quite happy with his lot. He says that any ambition and pride are disastrous and sinful, and that only labor, for which all people were created, can save from the greatest evil: boredom, vice and need. To work in his garden without idle talk is how Candide makes a saving decision. The community works hard and the land rewards them handsomely. “You need to cultivate your garden,” Candide keeps reminding them.