Launch novel on return of Voltaire's Candide by literary novelist whose debut book is voted among "Best Books of Decade" by Goodreads .
Best of All Possible Worlds is a forthcoming novel by the critically acclaimed literary novelist, Gary Anderson, about the return of Candide from the masterpiece by Voltaire. Best of All Possible Worlds is the second literary novel by Anderson whose debut novel, Animal Magnet, has been voted among the Best Books of the Decade and Best Literary Books of All Time by Goodreads where it earned an average reader rating of 4.86 stars out of five at http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11961060-animal-magnet.
Best of All Possible Worlds continues in the satiric spirit of Voltaire with the return of Voltaire's hero, Candide, to find his tutor, Pangloss, destitute and abandoned in the streets of Leyden in Holland. Set in the 1800's the story then follows the lives of two brothers, Jakob and Robrecht, who lead very different lives. At the heart of the novel is Jakob's quest to abandon his life as a sailor at sea for a more edifying life on land. In contrast, Robrecht is determined fully to embrace a sinful life at sea.
Best of All Possible Worlds builds upon Voltaire's Candide with an air of irreverence and a generous serving of the absurd concerning the universal problem of evil in a world created by a perfect God. Voltaire mercilessly railed against the philosophy advanced by Leibniz and articulated in Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man in which Pope writes, “Everything that is is right.” In Best of All Possible Worlds the writing of Anderson rivals the witty satire of Voltaire: there’s genius in both literary novels.
The authors tackle a theological problem with which mankind has wrestled for centuries: if God is both good and all-powerful, then why does so much catastrophic evil exist in our world?
Gary Anderson is from the prairies of southern Alberta. He has a master's degree in English from the University of Victoria. After living for a time in Korea, he resides with his wife and two children in New Jersey.
You can hear Gary speak about his forthcoming novel on YouTube at: http://youtu.be/0AsPJsJ20N4
You may preview the book trailer for "Best of All Possible Worlds" here:http://youtu.be/p_848noeBhY
Founded in 2010, WordsworthGreenwich Press at http://www.wordsworthgreenwichpress.com is a small literary press in New England devoted to publishing literary novels, poetry, stage plays and humanitarian non-fiction, which transcend commercial, mainstream publishing.
Best of All Possible Worlds is planned to become available at online booksellers and fine bookstores worldwide in May 2012.
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Here is an excerpt from "Best of All Possible Worlds" by Gary Anderson:
Jakob left the commons and strode briskly through Leyden. Arriving at his flat, he found Candide waiting. The young man sat stiffly, fingers enmeshed on the table before him. “Good Anabaptist,” said he, “a strange thing has happened to me this evening.”
Jakob sat at the table and poured a glass of bier. “What is it?” said he.
“As I made my way from the factory to town, I came upon a beggar, a man in dire straits. The wretch was terribly disfigured and he wheezed and coughed upon me, much to my horror. Still, I was filled with compassion for him, and I gave him the two gulden that you gifted me, good Anabaptist.”
“Yes, of course, that was the decent and Christian thing to do,” said Jakob. “But what troubles you, then?”
“The wretch held the coins in his soiled palm and began to sob. He sobbed so long and loud that I, too, began to sob. Then he fell weeping upon my neck and asked why I did not recognize my master.”
“Yes, my Master Pangloss from the castle of noble Baron Thunder-Ten-Tronckh.”
“But where is he now, your master?”
“Faint with hunger, he was scarcely able to stand. So I took him to your stables that he might have food and shelter for a spell.”
“Of course, yes. That is well. But what has happened to him that he has been reduced to beggary?”
“After tasting the pleasures of paradise in the arms of the pretty wench Paquette, he fell deathly ill. It is a horrifying ailment with a long pedigree—one that has disfigured my master’s kind visage.”
“I know of the disease. It is the scourge of society both high and low.” Jakob rose and tugged at the cravat around his neck. “Bring me to the poor wretch. We shall see about getting him treatment.”
“Oh, good Anabaptist,” cried Candide, “surely you are the best of all men.”
Jakob followed his young guest to the stables and to his Master Pangloss, who lay curled up in a tight ball, nestled into a bed of straw as if an injured and badly suffering field mouse. Candide rushed to his master’s side and, brushing away the straw, propped him upright. Candide had not exaggerated—Pangloss looked hideous. The philosopher may have appeared moderately youthful once, but as Jakob well knew, the disease ages one almost overnight. The nub of the master’s nose hung by a thread. His lips were grizzled and not a blackened tooth remained in his head. His left eye was swollen and oozing pus. And a bulbous gumma protruded from the center of his brow. Uneven sprigs of gray were all that remained of his hair.
“Master, it is a miracle,” said Candide. “I have found, in this the best of all possible worlds, a good man, an Anabaptist, who wishes for you to receive treatment for the disease that ravages you, body and soul.”
“Body, yes,” said Pangloss in a high quivering voice. “But not soul. For the soul is God’s only to save or destroy as He in His almightiness sees fit.”
Candide’s jaw dropped in the same instant that his eyebrows rose. “But Master, how is it that the Almighty would be capable of destroying a soul? For is he not the maker of souls?”
“I have taught you well, young Candide. For God does not destroy men’s souls but allows the Evil One to destroy men’s souls, until such a time as the Almighty sees fit to destroy him, the Evil One. God’s first act was creation and his final act shall be destruction.”
Jakob stepped forward. “That may be true, but still the body must be saved before it is too late. As you say, the soul is God’s concern.”
“This is he, Master, the best of all possible men,” said Candide. “Jakob, the Anabaptist.”
Pangloss executed an awkward courtly bow from his seated position. “I am in your debt, kind Anabaptist. And I trust that we may take up this discussion further in the future.”
“As do I,” said Jakob. “But now there is the pressing issue of getting you to the asylum to receive treatment.”
“Yes, we must see to it now,” said Candide.
Jakob and Candide circled around and each hooking a lanky arm, pulled the ragged, badly decaying philosopher to his feet. “Come, now,” said Jakob.
“Perhaps this illness is my lot. For God has allowed it to ravage my body.”
“How, then, can this be the best of all possible worlds,” said Jakob, “if the Evil One is allowed to destroy souls and illness and disease are allowed to roam freely from household to household, family to family, father to son, mother to daughter, and so on?”
“But cannot evil bring about good? Cannot illness and disease bring about a happy and beneficial end to someone somewhere? I say yes, good Anabaptist, yes it can.”
“How can this disease that ravages your body possibly bring about a happy and beneficial end to anyone?”
“It is the very origins of my disease that does so. You see, I received it from my fair Pacquette who received it from a learned friar, who received it from a countess, who received it from a cavalry captain, who received it from a marchioness, who received it from a page, who received it from a Jesuit, who while still in the robes of a novice received it from a companion of Christopher Columbus.”
“But how does this strange genealogy bring a happy or beneficial end to anyone?” said Candide.
“Don’t you see?” said Pangloss, pausing to hack a curdle of phlegm into his hand. “Had Columbus not caught the disease on an island of the Americas, we would have neither chocolate nor cochineal. Heavenly chocolate and carmine bleeding cochineal! Can you imagine a world without it? Thus from my disease has come a happy and beneficial end to many.” Pangloss’s knees wobbled beneath his emaciated frame. “But on the other hand,” said he, placing a hand to his brow, “perhaps the treatment is not such a bad thing. For God has allowed this disease to ravage my body, but God has also created the treatment that may cure it.”
“Indeed it is so, Master,” said Candide, “in this the best of all possible worlds.”
# # #
It is an illustration of the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, which critics like Voltaire of the prevailing blind optimism of Leibniz and Alexander Pope in which "Everything that is is right" was challenged. While optimism may certainly have its advantages over the course of human enterprise, unbridled it clearly may lead to mischief. Blind optimism was not only a philosophical lapse of Voltaire's era but also exists as potentially a major stumbling block for contemporary mankind.
"Best of All Possible Worlds" is an expression used repeatedly by the tutor, Pangloss, in Voltaire's "Candide." Despite vast evidence to the contrary it is highly possible that in some circumstances things could be better.
So if we may not live in the "best of all possible worlds" what does Voltaire prescribe to improve it?
Voltaire's admonitions of Pangloss in the story line of "Candide" beg the existential question that, if we do not live in the "best of all possible worlds," then what shall we do about it? It is, of course, a fair question. Voltaire answers this question in the last page of his novel by advising simply to "cultivate your own garden." In tending your own garden at least the flowers within your power to cultivate may bloom brightly and even cheerfully to benefit you and those who surround you. What does this new novel propose on this subject? Perhaps, another approach suggested by the last chapter makes even more sense.
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