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‘The Old Conductress’
Candide or The Optimist by Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire
Reading from the 154-page Franklin Library edition translated by Tobias Smollet
Staying with an old friend, I was recently housed in his library, largely consisting of books he purchased as a youth, quality volumes of literary gravity. Looking for a read for the last leg of my train ride east, I chose my selection based solely on the thinness of the volume, as I wanted no additional research reading. Then, a few pages into this beautifully written early modern parable, I discovered that this book was an upper class parable reminding the tiny literary community of the day that everyone of them hovered one step from slavery—if indeed they had been fortunate enough to be born above that most common of human conditions.
Voltaire begins his tale thusly:
“Translated from the German of Dr. Ralph.
“With the additions that were found in the Doctor’s pocket when he died in Minden, in the year of grace 1759.”
“1759”
I have chosen to summarize this study of human sorrow as a demonstration as to the extreme commonality of human bondage in early modern European society. For Voltaire wrote at precisely that place along the descent of our many forgotten races when our ancestors seemed to have come to agree under some economic weight that what distinguished each and every tribe of us was that we were more pale than the run of humanity and that it followed to ban all meaningful distinctions in favor of the badge of the sex slave—an identity born in Middle Eastern Pleasure Slavery… A point upon which the old fop is not silent.
The following installments are this reader’s impressions of Voltaire’s Candide, or The Optimist.
Thanks to Rick for the loan of this book.
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