Among the greatest minds of the 18th century, Voltaires witticism and keen intellect enabled him to become a perennial philosophic Candide by Voltaire
Among the greatest minds of the 18th century, Voltaire´s witticism and keen intellect enabled him to become a perennial philosophical and literary genius. His work was defined by the sharp-edged social criticism, insightful knowledge and caustic satire that earned him the hatred of the conservative institutions of his time and the appraisal of the literary world. Candide is in no way an exception to the rule.
We are presented with the story of Candide, a noble hearted young man, brought up in the household of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh of Westphalia. The simple pleasures of his simple life consist solely in the teachings of Pangloss, the family tutor, until he suddenly falls in love with Cunégonde, the daughter of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh. His infatuation quickly gets him kicked out of the Baron´s house and left to perish in the midst of our cruel world.
After a brief and yet most harrowing enlisting in the Bulgar army, he comes to know that the castle of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh has been assailed and all its inhabitants gruesomely murdered. However, the unexpected encounter with his former tutor renews his long abated hopes and eventually leads him to find a still living and still beautiful Cunégonde, the love of his life.
A series of murders serve as catalyzers for Candide´s adventures to come, forcing him to face overseas pursuit, separation from his beloved Cunégonde and unimaginable toils and hardships that he must endure if he shall rescue his bride to be from peril and languishment.
An extremely interesting story that compounds political satire, social critique, a fantastical and yet charming plot, humorous wit and philosophical acumen, Candide is a tour de force that vouches for the vast talent and marvelous technique of one of the most brilliant minds in French literature.
More often than not, political satires cannot withstand the passing of time without losing most of its perspicacity and freshness. Nothing could be farther from the truth when it comes to this amazing story.
When Voltaire wrote Candide in 1758, he was inspired not only by the social absurdities of his time, but also by the misinterpretation of the optimist doctrines, giving birth to what he considered a callous and inane new creed, utterly insensible to human suffering.
Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646-1716), a German mathematician and philosopher, went along with the Christian doctrine in attempting to give an optimistic explanation of life and the world we live in. In approaching the issue of “why are there so many atrocities and injustices in the world?”, they explained that, since we live in a world in which the free will of man is its most powerful driving force, there will always be a potential of good and evil; that since there is room for choice there cannot be exemption from either of them and that such world is better to live in than one devoid of freedom of action. However, such belief carries hope and optimism in its core, since it´s up to man to eventually supersede its flawed condition and reach a point in which good will be its unique choice, despite the other paths that may lie before him.
Nevertheless, when Pangloss incessantly babbles that “all is for the best”, he embodies the perverted and inane conception that the disciples of the optimistic doctrines have misconstrued and began to senselessly spout about. That is precisely what angered Voltaire and essentially led him to write Candide, in hopes to expose the drones that claimed that the foulest atrocities in this world indeed should have happened, and were even beneficial, if one considered “the big picture”. ...more
When it comes to discussing truly great writers, one of the first names that inevitably come to my mind is Fyodor DostoevskyBobok by Fyodor Dostoevsky
When it comes to discussing truly great writers, one of the first names that inevitably come to my mind is Fyodor Dostoevsky. His extraordinary acumen of human nature and his wondrous ability to discern and vividly depict the psychological traits in human behavior are epitomized in his two best novels: Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. Nevertheless, many of his other less known works are just as insightful, poignant and more often than not, extremely engrossing.
Such is the case of his short story Bobok. In this brief anecdote we find ourselves with what it might appear, at first, as the incoherent ramblings of a feverish man. Eventually the story acquires strength and once it gets hold of your mind it never lets go of it until the very last page, leaving you with an unquenchable thirst for more.
Bobok is the story of a man that, while attending the funeral of a distant relative of his, he happens to eavesdrop on a peculiar conversation. It is the people interred in the cemetery that begin to acquaint themselves with the “newly arrived”, discuss over a game of cards certain topics regarding those that live no more and eventually try to discern the nature of their condition. At first, social rank and decorum prevail in the interaction between the non-living, until a certain Baron decides to stir things up and proposes a change of things for the sake of enjoying the time they have left, before leaving our world for good.
Through this witty anecdote, Dostoevsky concocts an utterly tantalizing idea, the notion that after death there is not precisely death, but a brief span of time in which consciousness dwells still and is fully aware of its environment.
There is a certain detail in the story that I found extremely interesting:
While the story develops, both the narrator and the interred constantly complain of a redolent, foul smell that infects the whole cemetery. Although the dead have no sense of smell anymore, yet they claim to feel the stench; the possible explanation given to the reader is that the stench is a moral one, that is, the stench of the soul. Here we have a clear purgatory allusion, the notion that the remnant consciousness of oneself, still has to own up to the sins and shortcomings of its previous life.
Through its various characters, Bobok contains social criticism and satire, indicts several roles within the Russian society and touches upon the question that at least once has popped up in our minds: ¿Is there an afterlife? ¿And if so, what if..? ...more
"All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."
In 1945, George Orwell managed to successfully bring to life one of the direst and most s"All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."
In 1945, George Orwell managed to successfully bring to life one of the direst and most shattering indictments of Russian communism. Animal Farm is a powerful and insightful novel, a worthy introduction to his upcoming dystopian masterpiece (1984) that would entail from the message that Orwell was trying to spread at first, with this book; namely: Russia was not the prosperous land of freedom and opportunity as the rest of the world thought it was at the time.
By means of symbolism and a simple but direct prose, Animal Farm brings a clear light into the outbreak and denouement of the Russian revolution. Throughout this allegorical novel, the reader can easily witness the naive rising of what started as a noble and wholesome society, striving for equality and common welfare that eventually decayed into a new despotism full of cruelty and exploitation of the non ruling class.
Orwell´s main concern while writing the novel, was warning the global population into being always aware of the insidious methods by means of which a ruling class can acquire immeasurable power and turn any society into a totalitarian and despotic State. That warning is epitomized by certain powerful themes contained in Animal Farm, such as:
a) Propaganda: It takes a very important role in the novel as it represents, at first, the catalyzer of the revolution, the vessel through which the “present and future generations” could maintain intact the ideals and beliefs of the movement; it helps the indignant and fed up animals to channel their frustration and eventually vent it against their oppressors. Nevertheless, it eventually turns against the population, as it is used as a method of mind control, a way to keep the animals from realizing the poor conditions in which they now live in and the reigning inequality of their farm.
b) Ignorance: One of the main reasons power and despotism are perpetuated in the novel, is the ever present, ever growing ignorance of the rest of the animals. Despite the fact that certain rules have been created and written in plain sight in order to ensure the peaceful existence in the farm, most of the animals can´t read and those than can, easily forget what was written before, remaining ignorant of the convenient overnight changes applied to the rules that condone the atrocities committed by the ruling oppressors. The main message is this: if people do not take it upon themselves to think and learn freely, they will always depend and be forever enslaved to the agenda of those who tell them what to think and what allegedly is true.
c) Military power: The way Napoleon, the leader of the farm´s ruling class, literally “gets away with murder” is by procuring himself a private military force in the form of huge, vicious dogs. It is thus that he is able to get rid of his potential rivals and enemies, impose his own perfidious agenda and keep the rest of the animals in check. In this case, Orwell denounces perhaps the most powerful tool a despot has over his subjects: the military force; it exemplifies the infallible method by which Napoleon suppresses any form of resistance, forces compliance over the rest of the animals and guarantees his place as a ruler in the farm.
d) A common and never-ending threat: The way Napoleon unifies the animals and abates any trace of dissatisfaction from their part, is by keeping them in a constant state of fear, utilizing hate as a common banner against a chimerical enemy. Whenever a certain faction of the animal population raises a complaint against the status quo, suddenly there arises an attack from the evil Snowball, a former leader of the farm, vanquished for his devious and treacherous convictions, or so Napoleon and his minions claim. And not only that, but Snowball is also pointed as a direct cause for any shortcoming the present ruling system might have; therefore, it is only because of Snowball´s actions, and not the present social organization´s own faults, that problems in the farm arise. It´s this way that the ruling stratum shakes off any type of responsibility and merely busies itself with denouncing Snowball´s infamous actions as the farm´s main social cancer.
This is merely a summary of the vast number of topics the novel approaches, thus rendering us a clear view of what Orwell saw in the Russian revolution and eventual social organization.
Lest I turn this review into an essay, I will conclude here by saying that in Animal Farm we have a mesmerizing novel, poignant in its portrayal of a highly ideal gone wrong and whose vast depth shines through the pages directly at us. The story itself is utterly engrossing; the characters are at times strikingly and touchingly human and its chief message only enriches even more this must read classic. Absolutely wonderful! ...more