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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Literary Lessons: Dating Candide

If you are looking to be impressive, but do not want to put in a lot of effort, I have the book for you. Voltaire’s Candide is short, exciting and, heck, a fancy-schmancy historical figure like Voltaire wrote it so it’s the perfect literary reference for any snobby dinner party. What is also awesome about it is that it’s an honest-to-goodness wonderful book. It’s no Being and Nothingness, no War and Peace and definitely no Ulysses. It is just a solid and riveting novel that makes reading classic literature more enjoyable and less like homework. It also has a lot of applicable life lessons for any era, especially when it comes to dating advice.

In short, Candide works at a palace and has a big crush on an aristocratic girl, Cundegone. A revolution then goes down, followed by general havoc for about 100 pages until everyone decides that simple is better and becomes farming hippie folk. Oh, and every time you’re 110 percent sure someone is dead, they are not.

I have noticed that these days, love has lost its permanence. It seems that when we love others we imagine them to always be how they currently are, and we try not to think about them changing in some unsavory way. Unfortunately, the bane — or maybe the miracle — of existence is that we do not stay young, adventurous and youthful forever. For those older students, you may even be realizing it now. “Why do my knees hurt?” “Am I too old to have pastel lilac hair?” Moreover, just as we will not stay wrinkle-free and bangin’ forever, neither will our loved ones.

Candide fell in love with Cundegone because as far as one can ascertain from Voltaire’s writing, she was hot. I imagine her with a curvy ’50s pinup bod. However, although he fell in love with her during her prime, he stayed in love with her. And let me tell you something, by the end of the book she was missing a leg and had a degenerative skin condition, and was generally not looking too great.

I am all for living in the moment, but the next time you are on a date, maybe ponder this: if this other person looked completely different, would I be on this date? This is a fair question, because if you end up with this other person, in about 30 years, they are going to look completely different.

Or maybe ponder this: if I had a complete change in my social stature and wanted to do something revolutionarily different with my life, would this other person come along? This is also a fair question, because in 30 years, you are most likely not going to be doing anything near what you imagine you are going to be doing right now.

Life changes and people change, but if you want a bit more depth in your relationships, you might want to read Candide. It is so easy to be superficial these days. Everything is photoshopped, ridiculously attractive people apparently are the only people who exist — at least that’s what my TV tells me — and going to loud parties to get wasted seems to be preferable to sitting around and talking with others. Worse, having relationships via text and Facebook is a completely viable option.

Candide had it easy in a sense. Yes, it may have been a more difficult historical period in a lot of more crucial-to-survive kind of way, but in the ability to find real love it was much easier. He knew that things were going to be different, but it didn’t matter.

Maybe I’m getting nostalgic for an era that I never experienced, but loving someone as they lose limbs and social standing and parts of their face seems like an anachronism in today’s world. On the other hand, maybe this kind of love is still alive; it’s just not interesting enough to show on TV or in a magazine. “Celebrity Falls In Love and Stays With Companion Forever” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as “Celebrity Cheats on Husband of Two Weeks.”

I’m not sure if life imitates art, or art imitates life. What I can say, however, is that either way I am feeling a little worried about the future of dating and love in our society. Maybe the stress of midterms is getting to me, but where did all the Candides go?

 

To fantasize about the Enlightenment with EREN KAVVAS, you should email her at ebkavvas@ucdavis.edu.

 

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