Candide is Voltaire’s humorous criticism of power, wealth, love, philosophy, religion, education, and, most significantly, optimism. Published in 1759, Candide makes fun of the typical coming-of-age story and, more broadly, literature itself. The story follows the adventures of Candide, a young man in love with a woman of a much higher social class. When their love is thwarted, Candide lives through a series of absurdly bad events in order to be reunited with his sweetheart. François-Marie Arouet, whose pen name was Voltaire, was an Enlightenment thinker, which is reflected in his concern with the power of reason, rejection of the tyranny of church and state, and interest in equality among men. As you might have guessed, outspoken Voltaire was very unpopular with both government and church authorities in his time and was periodically imprisoned and exiled for his views. Candide was banned within a month of its release, as many interesting books are.
We’re guessing you’ve seen an episode of The Simpsons, Family Guy, Saturday Night Live, or Will Ferrell doing anything. In that case, you know that satire (using humor to expose ridiculous aspects of life and society) is very, very in right now. And if you’ve read Candide, you also know that satire is nothing new.
So, yes, with all the disasters, near deaths, disembowelments, and more, Candide is the original sitcom. Just imagine the Three Stooges cutting off each other’s limbs instead of poking each other in the eye.