Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rape, death, life, and STDs

In Candide, Voltaire uses a perplexing matter-of-fact tone while sprinkling in rich exaggeration reminiscent of Hau’ofa. The similarities between Tale of the Tikongs and Candide are present in this style. Just as in Tikongs the author retells seemingly vulgar, offensive, and violent happenings with an apathetic nonchalance. The exaggeration too comes off as something of a side note. Most of the exaggeration in Candide has to do with the character types. Whether it is Dr. Pangloss, whose every word seems to be a philosophical quote, or a Protestant orator who quickly condemns those of a different creed, or an Anabaptist who is extraordinarily kind and a firm believer of his creed.
I think that the humor of the story is in its simplicity. Even the diction of the story is somewhat simple in that its events seem to be—as Pangloss might say—simple cause and effect. One event rightly follows it predecessor. This humor is evident in even the chapter titles. Each chapter title is quite simply a briefing of what is to follow.
Voltaire’s nonchalant telling of the story is what I found to be the most humorous part of the book. He simply flows over violent floggings, the genealogy of a certain strand of Syphilis, or the unprecedented violence of a particular rape as if they were everyday happenings—although in a war they just may be.
Throughout the story I was reminded of Tikongs. Although Candide might display a bit more vulgarity than Tikongs—though Tikongs definitely had its moments—the manner in which the characters and events of the story were told unquestionably showed similar characteristics.
Voltaire and Hau’ofa are also similar in the manner in which they aim their humor, the target of their writing is ubiquitous—no one is safe. There is no air of superiority or of preaching, both authors simply tell it as it is (with a few exaggerations here and there) and expect the readers to do the questioning.

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