To give a brief introduction, Leibniz was an Enlightenment-era philosopher whose mantra could be simplified to ‘This is the best of all possible worlds.' Now, anyone who has stepped outside the bounds of their homes knows that this is not the case. Another philosopher of the same era, Voltaire, seemed to be infuriated with it – Candide was written to attack Leibnizian optimism and ridiculed government, military, religion, money, and the concept of honour itself.
When things seem to be getting better, Candide jumps to an entirely new plotline which makes you lose hope. That, to me, is Voltaire's genius. He leaves no holds barred in his unrelenting attack on optimism, so much so that each person takes for granted the horrors of our existence, even when confronted with it first-hand. Cunégonde's caretaker narrates the act of her buttocks being eaten by slavers for survival with an astounding lack of interest in the matter. Candide, the eponymous character, undergoes almost every calamity possible – ranging from being thrown out from his residence to nearly being hanged and even narrowly escaping from cannibals. There are dozens of such tales scattered across the text, and at some point, I just started laughing at Voltaire's ‘show, don't tell' philosophy – this novella might be the best example of the phrase I've ever seen.
Although abrupt, the ending felt perfect – primarily because of what it took for Candide to realise that we cannot always view the world through rose-tinted glasses – it helps to have a sense of realism, however tiny. Philosophy apart, Candide is a beautiful read, and it deserves its place in the Western canon.