American Candide
Mahendra Singh
(Rosarium Publishing)
How could this not work? Voltaire's classic satire Candide transplanted to 21st century America. What better place to shelter the privileged ingenue, under the tutelage of his mentor Dr. Pangloss, the prophet of Optimism, than the United States of Freedonia? This, the best of all possible worlds where things can only get better, perhaps even better than the best?

It's really almost too easy. Even without Donald Trump, there's so much to pillory . . . so many targets for satire provided by contemporary culture: Reality Television and Televangelists, venal businessmen and cheating bankers, factory farms and mile-long malls, the Military Industrial Complex and a paralyzed Congress.

And once the globe-trotting misadventures of Candide, his daffy tutor and his totally hot babe Cunegonde begin what better context than our own dangerous world to provide the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune to purge optimism from the boy's soul and wipe the smile from his face? Homeland Security goons, sundry suicide bombers, narco hit men, sex-crazed illegal aliens, not to mention illuminati global warmers, insurance cults, even the Senate Sub-Committee on Homeland Furnishings.

Singh proves himself more than up to the task. His prose is adroit and devastating, American Candide is fast-paced and loaded with wry humor and provides sufficient belly laughs to make exile, destitution, rape, murder and torture into "something that happens to other, mostly foreign people, thank God."

From the jungle slums of Pickapeppuh and the cartel sanctuary of Costanagua to the lily-white McMansions of American suburbia, the human condition does its best to wreak havoc upon Candide and his friends as they search for an American Dream. More than satire upon America's penchant for mindless self-satisfaction and casual racism, Candide might say it's really "rage against the rage, Voltaire-dude!"

--- Warren Sharpe
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