Tuesday, February 12, 2008

And now to the garden

Probably Voltaire's best-known quote is from Candide where he concludes "we must cultivate our garden". You remember, Candide is an innocent who begins in a castle, where he studies under Professor Pangloss ("the best of all possible worlds") and falls in love with the beautiful Cunegonde, daughter of the baron. Through a series of misfortunes, he travels the world with Pangloss, (who becomes syphilitic and deformed), and recovers Cunegonde (who was raped and stabbed by invaders, enslaved, prostituted, and ultimately loses her beauty) ; meanwhile Candide is tortured, partially flayed, and almost eaten. Eventually he becomes rich (but loses most of it) and he, Pangloss and Cunegonde, together with a couple of companions, end up on a small farm in Turkey. Pangloss once again philosophizes that all has been for the best. Candide says "That's well said, but we must cultivate our garden". It should be noted that Cunegonde has in the meantime become an excellent pastry cook.

There has been much analysis of what Voltaire actually meant to say by the retreat to the garden. Some may be repeated here in subsequent posts. But for me it has meaning on both the real and metaphysical levels; gardening as a focus on the here and now, the garden as an escape from the cruelty of the world, but also the garden as a symbol of renewal and a metaphor of life. And it produces food, too.

So this blog will also celebrate a retreat to the garden, figuratively and literally. Here will be a record of my garden, musings about the universe — and food.

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