Voltaire, ‘Candide’, (1759)

A biting, snarling, hilarious deconstruction of vain, lofty philosophising and the lunatic extremes of clumsy a priori reasoning. It predates attacks on the Whig theory of history by over a century, but acutely destroys ahistorical fetishisms of the present. Like Bradbury, Voltaire is concerned with the rollicking argument, with discord and the progress of civilisation through disagreement, discussion, resolution and, most profoundly for Voltaire’s times, with the coming of European revolutions – through democracy.

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