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Voltaire's Candide

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 03 May 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Voltaire's novel Candide. First published in 1759, the novel follows the adventures of a young man, Candide, and his mentor, the philosopher Pangloss. Candide was written in the aftermath of a major earthquake in Lisbon and the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, events which caused such human suffering that they shook many people's faith in a benevolent God. Voltaire's masterpiece piles ridicule on Optimism, the fashionable philosophical belief that such disasters are part of God's plan for humanity - that 'all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds'.

Often uproariously funny, the novel is a biting satire whose other targets include bad literature, extremist religion and the vanity of kings and politicians. It captivated contemporary readers and has proved one of French literature's most enduring classics.

With:

David Wootton
Anniversary Professor of History at the University of York

Nicholas Cronk
Professor of French Literature and Director of the Voltaire Foundation at the University of Oxford

Caroline Warman
Lecturer in French and Fellow of Jesus College at the University of Oxford.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

  • FURTHER READING

    Voltaire (trans. Theo Cuffe), ‘Candide’ (Penguin Classics, 2005)

    Voltaire (trans. Roger Pearson), ‘Candide and Other Stories’ (Oxford World’s Classics, 2006)

    Carl L. Becker, ‘The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers’ (Yale University Press, 2004)

    Nicholas Cronk (ed.), ‘The Cambridge Companion to Voltaire’ (CUP, 2009)

    Robert Darnton, ‘The Forbidden Bestsellers of Pre-Revolutionary France’ (Harper Collins, 1996)

    Robin Howells, ‘Playing Simplicity: Polemical Stupidity in the Writing of the French Enlightenment’ (Peter Lang, 2002)

    Jonathan Israel, ‘Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750’ (OUP, 2001)

    Jonathan Israel, ‘Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man 1670-1752’ (OUP, 2006)

    Jonathan Israel, ‘Democratic Enlightenment: Philosophy, Revolution, and Human Rights 1750-1790’ (OUP, 2011)

    Samuel Johnson, ‘The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia’ (Penguin Classics, 2007)

    Haydn Mason, ‘Candide: Optimism Demolished’ (Twayne Publishers, 1992)

    Roger Pearson, ‘The Fables of Reason: A Study of Voltaire’s Contes Philosophiques’ (OUP, 1993)

    Roger Pearson, ‘Voltaire Almighty: A Life in Pursuit of Freedom’ (Bloomsbury, 2005)

    Alexander Pope, ‘The Rape of the Lock and Other Major Writings’ (Penguin Classics, 2011)

    David Wootton, ‘Candide and Related Texts’ (Hackett Publishing Co, 2000)

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