While reading Candide this past week I was struck that Forrest Gump is essentially the same Zelig like tale without a hint of the sardonic and ironic tonic that makes Voltaire’s tale so fun and honest. This is the archetypal European v American comparison that Graham Greene was so fond of but rendered so starkly. Gump is such an idealized American myth because it has no wit and so iron handedly sees simplicity and steadfastness as the greatest virtues.
I got to Candide by reading Sciascia’s Candido – I’ve been on a Sciascia kick since I picked up Equal Danger at Dog Eared Books recently and have been transfixed by his nihilistic detectives which feel like Borges rendered in Sicily. But Candido is something different, a tender fairy tale of the Italian post war life which pokes fun at the sanctimonious political parties who design party lines so exacting and exclusionary that they negate a party base while falling into the same cultural corruptions. This is all highlighted by Italy’s non reckoning with fascist ghosts.
Like the titular character Italy’s parties are left naive and innocent as he navigates all these phantoms and comes to embody post war Italian history. The ruthless wit and searing honesty make it fun, but the Sciascia balances that out with a tender humanity. No one comes out clean but they all seem deserving.