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
To be honest, it came quite short to what I expected, since several friends of mine recommended it to me; although, I think its worth reading and analTo be honest, it came quite short to what I expected, since several friends of mine recommended it to me; although, I think it´s worth reading and analyzing.
Here are the aspects that I liked:
First of all, Bradbury managed to successfully create a dystopian future that closely resembles ours, to a frightening luxury of detail. The lack of human contact shamefully overpowered by artificial interaction, the lack of interest from people to learn and read, the callousness with which the individual treats his fellow man are all subjects to Bradbury´s microscope and again, ever present all around us nowadays.
I particularly enjoyed the metaphor to the anesthetizing effect television has on people, creating a false sense of interaction with the world and producing quite the contrary effect of alienating them from reality and, worse of all, depriving them from an independent, learned point of view by shoving in their heads prefabricated opinions and dogmas.
Last but not least, I liked the allusion he makes at the end of the novel to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki crimes, aka the Atomic Bombs that "in three seconds" as Bradbury points out, ended World War II. Also, the comment he makes on the necessity to document such atrocities in the hope that we no longer commit them in the future, in the hope that somewhere along the line we are able to understand and restrain ourselves from taking such paths.
That being said, there are some things I didn´t like about Fahrenheit 451:
First, the social problems Bradbury denounces have previously and more adroitly been examined by earlier dystopian novels. But it´s not only that, my problem with it is that it sounds too repetitive, meaning that he failed, to my point of view, to cast a new light to such problems; he merely went along the line already trodden by greater novels in the genre. To be more specific, I think he repeated what Aldous Huxley did - regarding to pointing out social problems- in "Brave New World"; but compared to it, Fahrenheit simply falls flat and comes short against the insightful existentialism portrayed by Huxley.
I also found in this novel an excessive use of metaphors, reaching to the point of blotting out the one or two really profound or even poetic remarks contained in the prose. It all sounds too contrived, an overstrained effort to sound poetical that lacks the swift and smooth pace of other writers and ends up defeating its own purpose. So in that regard, it completely diminishes the quality of the novel, it breaks off the mood and somewhat leads you away to dead end paths.
As a conclusion, I believe the novel is not so much about censorship, but about how society, on its own accord, decides to stop reading, to stop thinking, learning, deciding; what Bradbury does is point out to us how people in society don´t have to be oppressed by a government, how the state doesn´t have to force ignorance on the vast majority of the population, but it´s society itself that manages to do that in an extremely effective way. He tells us how we are our own worst enemies when it comes to intellectual freedom and enlightenment. ...more