P by Andrea Malcolm

Dr. Pangloss to J. Alfred Prufrock

A ghostly Dr Pangloss, the eternal optimist of Voltaire's Candide consoles Prufrock, the middle-aged, lovelorn antihero of T.S. Eliot's poem The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock.

 

Published in 1759, Candide is a fast-paced novella of wit and high adventure which satirises the philosophy of Leibniz, that (God being a benevolent deity) all is for the best. An Enlightenment classic, its black humour resonates still, making it easy to imagine a modern-day Voltaire writing for The Sopranos. ‘Prufrock’, published in 1915, is one of the quintessential works of modernism, a self-deprecating monologue on alienation and a forerunner to Radiohead’s Creep et al.