Why Did Voltaire Write Candide?

Candide was the culmination of Voltaire’s work. The impetus for its creation was the famous Lisbon earthquake on November 1, 1755, when the flourishing city was destroyed, and many people died. This event renewed the controversy surrounding Gottfried Leibniz. The German philosopher claimed that humanity lived in the best of all possible worlds.

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The satirical novella published in 1759 is the best-known work by Voltaire. It denunciates metaphysical optimism, as described by Gottfried Wilhelm LeibnizThe story’s plot focuses on a world of misery, horrors, and hypocrisy.  

The story was inspired by various natural and social cataclysms of the 18th century and the German philosopher’s impertinent optimism.

  1. In 1755, Lisbon was destroyed by an earthquake. It lasted for 3 to 6 minutes but created fissures 16 feet wide. Due to the earthquake, the sea receded and returned as a tsunami 40 minutes later. Two more waves followed. It was All Saints’ Day, and all churches and homes lit candles on the eve of the disaster. The earthquake knocked the candles upside down, causing a fire. Up to 40,000 people died under ruined buildings, tsunami, and fire or got asphyxiated with burning products.  
  2. In 1756, the Seven Years’ War for global supremacy between Britain and France started.  
  3. In 1757, John Byng, the English Admiral, was executed. He was incriminated with “failing to do his utmost,” but in fact, he prevented his detachment of 700 men from dying in vain. In Chapter 23, Candide learned about an Admiral who was ceremoniously executed “because he did not kill a sufficient number of men.” 

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