Invitation to World Literature
Candide – Map & Timeline
You need a map of half the world to chart Candide’s journeys. Voltaire sent his hero to every trouble spot on the map in the 18th century, and even to an imaginary haven―El Dorado. Since this kingdom is imaginary, we have followed Voltaire’s lead and placed it somewhere in South America, with no further information. Voltaire wanted to expose hypocrisy and ignorance both at home, in Europe, and abroad, in Europe’s colonies. Candide ends up finding happiness in Ottoman Turkey―an ironic joke at Europe’s expense.
Africans are taken by force to Latin America, by Spanish and Portuguese traders.
The French wars of religion between Catholics and Protestants claim tens of thousands of lives.
Mid-late 1500s — The first Jesuits enter Latin America.
The Thirty Years’ War, between Protestant and Catholic forces, engulfs Europe and millions of lives, particularly in Germany, whose population may have decreased by 30 percent.
Jesuit explorers reach and claim what is now Canada as the French colony of New France.
The Edict of Nantes, allowing Protestants civil rights, is revoked by Louis XIV; many tens of thousands of French Protestants (Huguenots) flee to England, the Netherlands, and other Protestant nations.
King William’s War, the first of three battles between France and England is fought in Canada and New England for control of North America; France wins.
Voltaire is born in Paris, France to a wealthy lawyer and the daughter of a member of Parliament; his given name is François-Marie Arouet.
Queen Anne’s War takes place, the second battle between France and England for control of North America; mixed results.
After Voltaire graduates from a Jesuit college, his father demands that he become a lawyer. Voltaire, however, aspires to be a writer.
Disgraced for trying to elope with a French refugee in the Netherlands, Voltaire is disinherited and threatened with banishment to the Americas by his father.
Voltaire is imprisoned in the Bastille prison in Paris, falsely accused of writing a satiric attack on the king. On his release, he publicly adopts the name Voltaire.
Voltaire is banished to England for his political satires. He meets Jonathan Swift and admires the British system of a constitutional monarchy.
Back in France, Voltaire publishes Philosophical Letters on the English, in which he states that Britain is more politically fair and upholding of human rights than France; the ensuing outrage forces him out of the country again.
Voltaire lives in exile on the border of the French province of Lorraine, studying Newtonian physics and contemporary philosophy.
Frederick the Great, king of Prussia, invites Voltaire to live in his household and pays him 20,000 francs a year to write.
Voltaire is forced to leave Prussia when he writes a satire on the President of the Berlin Academy of Science that enrages the king.
He lives in Geneva until that city’s law against theatrical performances leads him to Ferney, just over the border in France.
The French and Indian War is the last of the battles between France and England for control of North America; England wins.
An earthquake that may have been a magnitude 9 hits the Portuguese capital of Lisbon; as many as 100,000 people die from the quake and the ensuing tsunami and fires.
Candide is published.
Voltaire returns to Paris to see the performance of his latest play, Irene. He is received as a hero. He dies on May 30.
Because of his rejection of the Catholic church, Voltaire’s friends hurriedly have him buried far from Paris before the church can announce that he is not to be given a Christian burial.
The French Revolutionary National Assembly has Voltaire’s body brought back to Paris for a triumphant re-burial in the Pantheon. Perhaps one million people attended the procession of his body through Paris.
Unit 1 The Epic of Gilgamesh
The first known human story is that of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk. Images of artifacts from ancient Iraq mix with beautiful illustrations, dance, and costume to tell of the relations between gods and mortals, the search for friendship, love, and immortality. Featured cast members include Assyriologist Ben Foster, comic book illustrator Jim Starlin, and poet and playwright Yusef Komunyakaa.
Unit 2 My Name Is Red
Both an historical novel and a graphic murder mystery set among the miniaturists of the Ottoman court. With its focus on Istambul, a major crossroads of the world, it tells of the artistic/cultural contest between Europe and the East. Cast members include the book's Nobel-prize winning author, Orhan Pamuk, and its English translator, Erdağ Göknar.
Unit 3 The Odyssey
Odysseus must travel the known and unknown world before he can return home to his beloved island kingdom of Ithaca. What does this ancient story say to readers today? In this program, Odysseus's story is given ancient and modern historical and philosophical context, and illustrated with centuries of art. Featured are theater director Mary Zimmerman, actor-director Tim Blake-Nelson, and psychologist/author Jonathan Shay.
Unit 4 The Bacchae
The city of Thebes is torn apart by the conflicting demands of reason and religion, as the disguised god Dionysus returns to his home town demanding to be worshipped. Opposing him is the young king Pentheus, who is doomed to suffer the ultimate punishment for his disbelief. Featured speakers include world-renowned playwright/author Wole Soyinka, actor Alan Cumming, and Daniel Mendelsohn of Bard College.
Unit 5 The Bhagavad Gita
This epic tale of the warrior-prince Arjuna confronting a life-or-death dilemma during civil war presents a unique and powerful philosophy of duty, discipline, and serving a higher purpose. Beautiful illustrations connect the story with its rich history and culture. Featured speakers include Sheldon Pollock, Professor of Sanskrit Studies and acclaimed composer Philip Glass.
Unit 6 The Tale of Genji
This portrait of court life in medieval Japan follows the life and exploits of the great Genji. Written by Murasaki Shikibu, a lady of the Japanese court, it provides an insider's view of Japanese court life, the official and behind the screen. Art, clothing, music from the time of the novel illustrate the obserations of authors Jane Smiley and Chiori Miyagawa, among others.
Unit 7 Journey to the West
The powerful and mischievous Stone Monkey King brings chaos to heaven and earth. Freed from a mountain prison in order to guard a Chinese monk on his journey to retrieve the Buddhist scriptures from India, Monkey seeks his own spiritual transformation. Modern performance, contemporary art, and Buddhist philosophers provide a rich context to the ancient tale. Featured cast members include playwright David Henry Huang, storyteller Diane Wolkstein, and translator Professor Anthony Yu.
Unit 8 Popol Vuh
The Mayan book of creation, the dawn of life, and the glories of gods and kings. This magnificent epic was saved from destruction at the hands of the Spanish by Quiché chroniclers. Once repressed, the story is now interwoven with the history of today's Mayan people. Featured speakers include archaeologist Richard Hanson, humorist Mo Rocca, and Guatemalan artist Shuni Giron.
Unit 9 Candide
A satirical novel following the travails of Candide, a hopeless optimist whose faith in his tutor's mantra that his is "the best of all possible worlds" is tested beyond all limits. Voltaire's challenge to the aristocracy of his day proves refreshingly amusing and biting today. Original illustrations, songs, and comic book figures plumb the depths of this satire. Featured speakers include director Harold Ramis, actress Kristin Chenoweth, and cartoonist Chris Ware.
Unit 10 Things Fall Apart
In this foundational modern African novel, Chinua Achebe's story follows the lives of people trying to understand which belief systems deserve their loyalty. The protagonist, Okonkwo is a tribal leader who battles neighboring villages, the English, and his own demons in early colonial Nigeria. The perspectives of readers from around the world reveal the novel's universal themes. Cast members include playwright and professor Tess Onwueme and theater director Chuck Mike.
Unit 11 One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel García Márquez's multigenerational saga of the Buendía family in the isolated town of Macondo inaugurated the boom in Latin American literature in the 1970s and marked the beginning of magical realism. Writer Sandra Cisneros and scholar of Latin American literature, Ilan Stavans lend their thoughts and voices to the discussion of this epic novel.
Unit 12 The God of Small Things
Fraternal twins Rahel and Estha struggle to reclaim their lives after their childhood is destroyed by tragic circumstances. As past and present merge in this narrative of Indian society and politics, the many layers of the caste system are mirrored in the poetic and inventive language of the author. Featured speakers include Simon Gikandi of Princeton University, author Evelyn Ch'ien.
Unit 13 The Thousand and One Nights
Shahrazad must hold the interest of her despotic husband the sultan with nightly tales, lest she lose her life in the morning. This wellspring of storytelling, circulating from medieval Persia to Egypt to Iraq, like its wily raconteur lives on in many modern adaptations. Art, performance, and film images are employed to show the collection's broad span of influence. Featured speakers include Marin Alsop, musical director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Aly Jetha and Shabnam Rezai, co-producers of the 1001 Nights animated series.