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Candide, ou l'Optimisme is a French satire first published in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment.
The novella has been widely translated, with English versions titled Candide: or, All for the Best (1759); Candide: or, The Optimist (1762); and Candide: or, Optimism (1947).
It begins with a young man, Candide, who is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with Leibnizian optimism (or simply Optimism) by his mentor, Pangloss.
The work describes the abrupt cessation of this lifestyle, followed by Candide's slow, painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world.
Voltaire concludes with Candide, if not rejecting optimism outright, advocating a deeply practical precept, "we must cultivate our garden", in lieu of the Leibnizian mantra of Pangloss, "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds".
The tale of Candide begins in the castle of the Baron Thunder-ten-Tronckh in Westphalia, home to the Baron's daughter, Lady Cunégonde; his bastard nephew, Candide; a tutor, Pangloss; a chambermaid, Paquette; and the rest of the Baron's family. The protagonist, Candide, is romantically attracted to Cunégonde. He is a child of "the most unaffected simplicity", whose face is "the index of his mind". Dr. Pangloss, professor of "métaphysico-théologo-cosmolonigologie" (English translation: "metaphysico-theologo-cosmonigology") and self-proclaimed optimist, teaches his pupils that they live in the "best of all possible worlds" and that "all is for the best".
All is well in the castle until Cunégonde sees Pangloss sexually engaged with Paquette in some bushes. Encouraged by this show of affection, Cunégonde drops her handkerchief next to Candide which entices him to kiss her. For this infraction, Candide is evicted from the castle, at which point he is captured by Bulgar (Prussian) recruiters and coerced into military service, where he is flogged, nearly executed, and forced to participate in a major battle between the Bulgars and the Abares (an allegory representing the Prussians and the French). Candide eventually escapes the army and makes his way to Holland where he is given aid by Jacques, an Anabaptist, who strengthens Candide's optimism. Soon after, Candide finds his master Pangloss, now a beggar with syphilis. Pangloss reveals he was infected with this disease by Paquette and shocks Candide by relating how Castle Thunder-ten-Tronckh was destroyed by Bulgars, and that Cunégonde and her whole family were killed. Pangloss is cured of his illness by Jacques, losing one eye and one ear in the process, and the three set sail to Lisbon.
In Lisbon's harbor, they are overtaken by a vicious storm which destroys the boat. Jacques attempts to save a sailor, and in the process is thrown overboard. The sailor makes no move to help the drowning Jacques, and Candide is in a state of despair until Pangloss explains to him that Lisbon harbor was created in order for Jacques to drown. Only Pangloss, Candide, and the "brutish sailor" who let Jacques drown survive the wreck and reach Lisbon, which is promptly hit by an earthquake, tsunami and fire that kill tens of thousands. The sailor leaves in order to loot the rubble while Candide, injured and begging for help, is lectured on the optimistic view of the situation by Pangloss.
The next day, Pangloss discusses his optimistic philosophy with a member of the Portuguese Inquisition, and he and Candide are arrested for heresy, set to be tortured and killed in an "auto-da-fé" set up to appease God and prevent another disaster.