Voltaire’s Candide or optimism is readily associated, in the mind of most contemporary readers, with the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. Any book that offers a general account on this chef-d’oeuvre never fails to point out that one of the principal reasons of the writing of the book can be found in this catastrophic event. What we are setting out to do in this study is not the investigation of the philosophical aspect of the Candide, even less its understanding in the historical perspective. The aim of our study lies precisely in identifying a specific mode of writing that one can witness on the surface of the text. If the Earthquake, as one argues, caused intellectual earthquake in the very mind of Voltaire, how does his own text, published four years later, reflect memories of the such event? Memories, but not the immediate nor faithful description of the catastrophe.
Our study suggests that the text, as well as its several characters is in constant motion as if the tremor subsequently follows the earthquake. What Voltaire successfully presents to the readers is the successive pictures of the tragedy underwent by the characters and carried out by the swift transition of one event to another. Moving from one place to another, from one country to another, from the barony of Westphalia to the New World, Candide and his entourage experience all kinds of “evils”: they are hanged, dissected, raped, beaten, sold to pirates, robbed, disemboweled; their castle demolished, their parents murdered. Behind this vertiginous rhythm of the narrative, even the most insensible reader can notice that it oftens lacks any causal relation. Frequent use of parataxis emphasizes the abrupt nature of the narrative. Extreme fragmentation of the text and the narrative, along with the obsessive depiction of the body in pieces, all these succeed in representing the memories of the catastrophe.
Lastly, we suggest that beyond the image of this shattered world, one can still find a possible, mysterious chain that would link one end of the globe to the other, one character to another, one event to another; and that the pessimistic vision of Voltaire reveals itself once again through the tragic nature of the ever closer world.
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