Ever since 1759, when Voltaire wrote Candide in ridicule of the notion that this is the best of all possible worlds, this world has been a gayer place for audiences. Voltaire wrote it in three days, and five or six generations have found that its laughter does not grow old.
Candide has not aged. Yet how different the book would have looked if Voltaire had written it 150 later than 1759. It would have been, among other things, a book of sights and sounds. A modern writer would have tried to catch and fix in words some of those Atlantic changes which broke the Atlantic monotony of that voyage from Cadiz to Buenos Ayres. When Martin and Candide were sailing the length of the Mediterranean, we should have had a contrast between naked scarped Balearic cliffs and headlands of Calabria in their mists.
Many propagandist satirical books have been written with Candide in mind, but not too many. Today, especially, when new faiths are changing the structure of the world, faiths which are still plastic enough to be deformed by every disciple, each disciple for himself, and which have not yet received the final deformation known as universal acceptance, today Candide is an inspiration to every narrative satirist who hates one of these new faiths, or hates every interpretation of it but his own. Either hatred will serve as a motive to satire.
That is why the present is one of the right moments to republish Candide. I hope it will inspire younger men and women, the only ones who can be inspired, to have a try at Theodore, or Militarism; Jane, or Pacifism; at So-and-So, the Pragmatist or the Freudian. And I hope, too, that they will without trying hold their pens with an 18th-century lightness, not inappropriate to a philosophic tale. In Voltaire's fingers, as Anatole France has said, the pen runs and laughs.
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Still A Great Story
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