Books Readed with Russell Etchen: Candide

by Voltaire
translated by Lowell Bair

I’ve wanted to kill myself a hundred times, but I still love life. That ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our most pernicious inclinations. What could be more stupid than to persist in carrying a burden that we constantly want to cast off, to hold our existence in horror, yet cling to it nonetheless, to fondle the serpent that devours us, until it has eaten our heart?

Just for the sake of amusement, ask each passenger to tell you his story, and if you a single one who hasn’t often cursed his life, who hasn’t often told himself he was the most miserable man in the world, you can throw me overboard head first.

Candide, elated, wrote Cunegonde’s name on the trees.

“What’s optimism” asked Cacambo.
“Alas,” said Candide, “it’s a mania for insisting that everything is all right when everything is going wrong.”

Everywhere in the world, the weak detest the strong and grovel before them, and the strong treat them like flocks of sheep to be sold for their meat and wool.

Secret torments are even more agonizing than public miseries.

“This proves that crime is sometimes punished,” Candide said to Martin. “That black-hearted Dutch captain has met the fate he deserved.”
“Yes,” said Martin, “but did all the passengers on his ship have to perish with him? God punished that scoundrel, but the devil drowned the others.”

It’s a chaos, a restless throng in which everyone is looking for pleasure and hardly anyone ever finds it, or at least that’s how it seemed to me.

“But for what purpose was the earth formed?” asked Candide.
“To drive us mad,” replied Martin.

“Do you believe,” said Candide, “that men have always slaughtered each other as they do today, that they’ve always beens liars, cheats, traitors, ingrates and thieves, weak, fickle, cowardly, envious, greedy, drunken, miserly, ambitious, bloodthirsty, slanderous, lecherous, fanatical, hypocritical and foolish?”
“Do you believe,” said Martin, “that hawks have always eaten pigeons when they find them?”
“Yes, of course,” Said Candide.
“Well, then,” said Martin, “if hawks have always had the same character, what makes you think men may have changed theirs?”

“Who’s that fat pig,” said Candide, “who was talking so vehemently against the play that made me weep so much, and against the actors who gave me so much pleasure?”
“He’s a spiteful man,” replied the abbé, “who earns his living by attacking all plays and all books. He hates anyone who succeeds, just as eunuchs hate anyone who makes love. He’s one of those snakes of literature who feed on filth and venom; he’s a hack.”

“You’re a bitter man,” said Candide.
“That’s because I’ve lived,” said Martin.

“Well said,” replied Candide, “but we must cultivate our garden.”


Russell Etchen was born 1979 in Shreveport, Louisiana. Artist, book designer, and curator living and working in Los Angeles.

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