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Info:EDITIONS FLAMMARION (no date), Paperback
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Persian Letters by Montesquieu (1721)



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English (10)  Italian (2)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (15)
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Davidson’s notes to the text (Broadway Translations, Routledge & Sons, London, 1891?) are useful; a few examples:
XI, note 2 to 1st line: „essayer la mienne“ - an Gascon expression meaning ‘in deference to mine’, not ‘to test mine’;
LXXIII, note 3: „un bâtard / a bastard“ : i.e. ‘the dictionary of Furetière; being accused of having profited from the work of fellow -Academicians, F. was expelled from the Academy in 1685.’;
LIX: „détruire l’Hérésie“ : ‘The Revocation of the Edict fo Nantes in 1685’; „l’abolition des duels“ : ‘Edicts of 1654 and 1679’;
CXLII, p.318: ’In an island near the Orcades, a child was born …’ The Scotch financier, Law, of whose system this allegory is a satire. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Law_(economist)

Davidson uses words and expressions that now sound somewhat dated. Examples: ‘liker’ for ‘like’ (XI, p-56, line 5); …
  MeisterPfriem | Jun 29, 2018 |
The préface par Jacques Roger of this edition (Flammarion, Paris 1964) is as spirited as Montesquieu’s writing and describes the political and social context - the lettre persanes were published 1721 six years after the death of Louis XIV - and their place in Montesquieu’s life.
What a ‘free spirit’ Montesquieu is! : like Usbek: „Je passe ma vie à examiner, […] Tout me intéresse, tout m’étonne : je suis comme un enfant, …“ (XLVIII); about Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions: Usbek pleas for tolerance (LX); … (VI-18)
  MeisterPfriem | Jun 29, 2018 |
The nice thing about reading early 'novels' is that they so often have nothing in common with a typical contemporary novel. That's definitely the case for PL, of which only the first dozen and the last half dozen pages are are connected in any kind of narrative. Not only that, the narrative is immensely dull, unless you're the sort of person who gets off on descriptions of Harem life. Such people are, I'm sure, less common now than they were in the 18th century. A general warning: if you're prone to crying with rage any time a European shows curiosity in Oriental (sic) culture, you'll have to be very, very careful with this book. Some of it smacks of crazy ethnocentrism. On the other hand, the book is much more critical of French society than it is of 'Persian' society.

The meat of the book consists in letters written to and from various 'Persians,' seeing France and some other parts of Europe for the first time. Like all good satire, it takes the normal (well, normal for 18th century French novel readers), views it from another perspective, and finds it to be both hilarious and horrifying. If you've read other 18th century moralists, you'll know what to expect: freedom, intelligence, stoicism, nature good; tyranny, love of money, theology bad.

But I oversimplify, because easily the best thing about the book is how free-floating it is. I found it virtually impossible to tell when Montesquieu wanted his authors to agree with the letter writers and when to disagree. Which had the awful, depressing effect of making me think about things. For that I knock off two stars, because thinking about things is way too hard work for me. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
Un classique donc difficile de critiquer. Mais je n'ai pas été emballée par le récit. ( )
  Lhiscock | Oct 28, 2013 |
A remarkable book. Its topics read as if written in 2010: Persian/ "Iranian" Islam trying to convert Armenian Christians and Zoroastrians because of the new Shah's edict. Hence, all the Armenians fled, emptying with a stroke of the pen "all the skilled workmen, and all the businessmen of Persia."
Then there are the gender issues, letters written by favorite wives in the seraglio to their husband in Paris; or, the chief eunuch's letters on the difficulty of guarding the seraglio, especially Roxanne. Then there's the historical, comparatist reflections, say on slavery in Rome versus slaves guarding the seraglio. Roman slaves were very productive, and could grow very rich: from tours of Roman tombs and Neapolitan tombs from teh Roman era, I know this to be true; their wealth sometimes grew because Senators, for example, were debarred from money-making except as land-owners and patrons.
One of the fictitious letter-writers compares Roman slaves in their industry and eventual wealth--enough to buy their and their families' freeedom--to the lazy luxuriousness of Persian slaves whose only "job" is to guard the seraglio.
This is a stunner, to read a work from 60 years before the Declaration of Independence that addresses many issues that populate our evening news, as well as some issues (Roman slavery) that would be discussed if we TV watchers were smarter.
The reflections on religion are astute and timeless. For instance,
"It is observable, that the members of the minority religions commonly make themselves more useful to their country, than those of the established religion; because, being excluded from all honours, they can only render themselves considerable by their opulence; they are led to acquire it by their industry, and to embrace the most toilsome employments in the society." What better argument for varieties of religions, and against majority rligions, whether Islam in Iran or Evangelicalism in the US? ( )
1 vote AlanWPowers | Dec 2, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Montesquieuprimary authorall editionscalculated
Antēns, NormundsEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davidson, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fridrihsons, KurtsIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Healy, George RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kahn, AndrewEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lehtonen, J. V.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Loy, J. RobertEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mauldon, MargaretTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Payne, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roger, JacquesEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Silow, A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zariņš, VilnisForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zvagulis, PēterisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140442812, Paperback)

This richly evocative novel-in-letters tells the story of two Persian noblemen who have left their country - the modern Iran - to journey to Europe in search of wisdom. As they travel, they write home to wives and eunuchs in the harem and to friends in France and elsewhere. Their colourful observations on the culture differences between West and East culture conjure up Eastern sensuality, repression and cruelty in contrast to the freer, more civilized West - but here also unworthy nobles and bishops, frivolous women of fashion and conceited people of all kinds are satirized. Storytellers as well as letter-writers, Montesquieu's Usbek and Rica are disrespectful and witty, but also serious moralists. "Persian Letters" was a succes de scandale in Paris society, and encapsulates the libertarian, critical spirit of the early eighteenth century.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:20 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In this 1721 satire, two Persian noblemen, Usbek and Rica, travel to France, commenting on their adventures in letters to family and mullahs back home. This early model for the epistolary novel sends up Parisian culture and society, including caf s, salons, the theater, fashion, religion, royalty, and even the emerging mass media of prints and periodicals.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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