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February 10, 2009


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First a disclaimer: It's been a hell of a long time since I read any of Voltaire's work, and even then, I don't think I paid anywhere near enough attention in class. I know I didn't finish reading any of the assigned texts- but the same is true of all my other French and German literature classes, well, most of them. In fact, I sometimes wonder just how I managed to get my degree, considering just how much of my time was spent drinking coffee and discussing random stuff completely unrelated to French literature..... Oh well.

Anyway, I remember the lecturer (my favourite French lecturer, and up their with the best Russian lecturers, pity about his taste in books (Zola!)) explaining Candide and his garden like this: Having roamed the world and seen all the evils and that he can't do anything to change it, Candide realises the only thing he can do is dig his own garden, i.e. take care of the small things in his own life he can manage. I think Voltaire's life in Ferney is a good example of Candide in action- it wasn't just his little hidey-hole from which he could sprint across the border to Geneva when he inevitably got himself in trouble (some people just don't know when to keep their mouths shut), he also invested a lot of time, effort and money into the community, helping his neighbours and developing the community. He couldn't fix France, or even stubborn, Calvinist Geneva, but he could do good for one little village.

Something tells me Confucius would approve, but I'll leave that to the experts to decide.

Chris responds in greater length on his blog here

Chris, I am going to respond to the above over at your place...

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