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Persian Letters

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  4,450 Ratings  ·  99 Reviews
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 Eas ...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 352 pages
Published January 25th 1973 by Penguin Books (first published 1721)
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Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012

How to sell a book 300 years old to a modern reader? What is the appeal today of the epistolary musings of a couple of Oriental travellers having a first contact with Western civilization at the end of King Louis the 14th? Here are some points that I hope will tickle your interest:

1 - The Persian Letters were not written as history, but as a contemporary satire of French civilization, using ridicule and common sense to expose the more unsavoury mentalities and practices of fellow countrymen. Thi
Mohammadjavad Abbasi

این کتاب نام ایرانیان را چنان بلند آوازه ساخت که فرانسویان مدتی دراز، ترک و عرب و چینی و هندی و ژاپنی و سیامی را به فراموشی سپردند. دیگر همه جا صحبت از ایرانیان بود و همه از فضایل ایرانیان سخن می راندند و کار به جایی رسید که ناشران و کتابفروشان در برخورد با هر نویسنده ای از او می خواستند که داستانی شبیه به نامه های ایرانی برایشان بنویسد.
کتاب "نامه های ایرانی" در همان نخستین سال انتشار ده بار و در زمان حیات مونتسکیو 29 بار به چاپ رسید. چنین موفقیتی تا آن زمان در تاریخ ادبیات فرانسه سابقه نداشت. و
Feb 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Montesquieu may not be known to you, but he is largely responsible for the system of checks and balances in the U.S. Constitution between the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government. The Founding Fathers of our country were deeply influenced by Montesquieu's The Spirit of the Laws, which he wrote later in life.

The Persian Letters, however, was written a quarter century earlier and was one of the most popular books of its time. Montesquieu has, in effect, created an epistolary
Tayebe Ej
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

شاید حکمت آن بوده که انسانها جان بسپارند و حماقتهایشان در دوران گذرای عمر فراموش شود، اما کتابها بمانند و جاویدان شوند و با این حساب یک آدم احمق باید خوشحال باشد که بعد از مرگ اثری از حماقتهای او باقی نخواهد ماند و عجیب آن است که بعضی از این احمقها نمیخواهند فراموش شوند. و اصرار دارند که کتابی بنویسند و نسلهای آینده را هم با شرح حماقتهای خود عذاب بدهند، تا آنها هم بدانند که چنین احمقهایی پیش از آنها زندگی میکردهاند
(نامهی 66)
لا أعرف ما شعوري تجاه هذا الكتاب ..

في الصفحات الاولى شعرت بالملل، ولم أفهم فائدة هذا الكتاب، ولكن مع تقدمي قي القراءة أصبحت لا أستطيع مفارقته وأصبحت أختلس لحظات صغيرة من هنا وهناك لأقرأ رسالة جديدة من رسائل الكتاب البالغة 161 رسالة

فهذه الرسائل تشكل رواية فلسفية كُتبت على طريقة الرسائل المتبادلة بين أشخاص الرواية، منها ما هو جد شيق ويحبس الأنفاس، ومنها ما هو على شكل مقالة أدبية إجتماعية سامية، لو حذفنا العنوان واسم المرسل إليه، لما خالجني شك بأنها قطعة من مقالة مفردة لا رسالة

أهم ما في هذه الرسائ
Maria Ceyda Gonzalez
Kadın-erkek, din ve siyaset konuları üzerinde yoğunlaşmış, dönemine göre oldukça özgün okunmaya değer başarılı bir kitap.
Justin Evans
Jul 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, essays
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 pron ...more
Mar 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 18th-centurylit
This book, "a sort of novel", is an epistolary story of two Persian travelers, Usbek and Rica, who travel to Europe. Usbek leaves behind five wives and a handful of eunuchs to watch over them. The letters are sent from and to a variety of the people, and each of them reflect on some form of culture, whether the men's perspective of Western civilization or Usbek's wives' opinions on their own society and their place within it.

What makes this particularly interesting for me is that while the novel
Actual rating: 3.5/5
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 Roxann
Jul 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this so much more than I could have anticipated. But I don't really feel like reviewing it in a thoughtful way. My apologies. I have always loved the correspondence technique for storytelling. It allows for digressions and timeline manipulations you can't get away with in a regular narrative. I liked the "parables". A person probably gets more from the book on a subsequent reading or with more time to devote to really contemplating the parables. Fantastic. Looking forward to reading mo ...more
Un classique toujours aussi agréable.
T.F. Rhoden
Aug 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Any book that has the staying power that this title has had will have merit. Published nearly three hundred years ago (in 1721), Persian Letters by Montesquieu is an epistolary novel that traces the fictional correspondence between two eighteenth-century Persians and their countrymen as they travel through the occidental world for the first time, eventually settling in Paris for a decade during the remaining years of Louie XIV’s reign. The book illustrates what we would now call today culture sh ...more
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
C'est un roman épistolaire qui contient plus que 150 lettres échangées entre deux persans qui ont vouyagé en France avec d'autres personnages qui vivent, la plupart d'eux, en Perse.
Toute lettre est vraiment un cours de philosophie oú Montesquieu critique la société française de son époque, les sociétés musulmanes shiites et sunnites, le despotisme européen et oriental, la situation des femmes en Perse et pas mal d'autres sujets philosophiques, religieux, sociaux et politiques.
Montesquieu qui a m
Dec 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nederlands
‘Als ik onbevooroordeeld redeneer dan vraag ik me af of het niet goed is dat een land verschillende religies kent. We kunnen constateren dat de aanhangers van een religie die gedoogd wordt, voor een land meestal nuttiger zijn dan de aanhangers van de overheersende religie. Omdat ze niet aanmerking komen voor ereposten en zich alleen kunnen onderscheiden door weelde en rijkdom, zijn ze geneigd dit door arbeid te verkrijgen en te kiezen voor het moeilijkste werk dat de samenleving te bieden heeft. ...more
Mar 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
كنت دائما ما أطرب لأولئك الذين ينقدون منطرف خفي نتيجة لظروف سياسية او اجتماعية او دينية تمنعهم من النقد الصريح أو ربما اختيارا لأسلوب أبلغ وأشد ايقاعا في النفس من المباشرة المملة والمكرورة.
في سنين سبقت الربيع العربي كنت استمتع بمقالات لكاتب يدعز "ماهر عبد الجليل" من تونس في صحيفة الحياة اللندنية.. كانت تلك المقالات لا تخرج عن الاطار الاجتماعي البحت لكنها ترسل اشد رسائل النقد السياسي في ثنايا الكلمات والحديث.
مونتسكيو هنا وفي قالب درامي وبالرسائل الاخوانية متقمصا شخصيات تنتمي لشعب آخر قرر بعض افرا
Jan 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 18e-siècle
Une lecture assez proche des "Bijoux indiscrets" de Diderot, mais que j'ai préférée à celle-ci par certains aspects: tout d'abord, le choix du roman épistolaire qui atteste en quelque sorte l'authenticité du récit, bien qu'il aurait davantage pu en déployer toutes les possibilités comme l'a fait Laclos plus tard. Ensuite, la trame amoureuse qui parcourt tout le roman, tout comme dans les "Bijoux", m'a beaucoup plu, surtout par sa conclusion. Celle-ci montre les limites de la philosophie d'Usbek: ...more
Nov 07, 2009 rated it it was ok
Boring... Maybe reading it in original didn't help either. Most of what was written is so long outdated, that in order for it to have been interesting, the form and the literary qualities should have been of a much greater value then they are. I guess it's a matter of taste, I don't find letter-novels very appealing. And sometimes I had a hard time finding the connection between the letters - it's not like a book that goes from a beginning to an end, it's just a collection of facts and view of ...more
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french, ebook
En commençant la lecture des Lettres persanes un peu par hasard, je ne m'attendais pas à trouver ce livre si agréable. Du début à la fin, cela aura été une vraie surprise.

Ce livre a été écrit par Montesquieu il y a plus de 290 ans et pourtant de nombreux thèmes continuent de résonner dans nos sociétés modernes et peuvent être source de réflexion.

Pour éviter une attaque trop directe, Montesquieu prend pour prétexte une correspondance entre étrangers comparant la vie en Europe, plus particulièreme
Victor Morosoff
Feb 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tellement lucide par le processus de (dé)construction de deux mondes opposés et d'autant plus spectaculaires, l'ouvrage de Montesquieu gagne, outre la fonction artistique, un rôle essentiel de document objectif et surtout complice du lecteur, par l'intermédiaire de son ironie rusée. Sauf qu'il y a une assez bouleversante discordance entre les premières environ 70 lettres, pleines de vie tumultueuse et de frivolités, et les suivantes, qui abordent des questionnements plus subtiles, sans que le le ...more
Jun 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are valuable lessons of life in this collection of letters. I would read them again and again. Each time finding new pieces and learnings to fall in love with. In French especially, this oeuvre is marvelous.
lézengő reader
Jun 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommended to lézengő reader by: Márk
Szeráj, szeráj, szeráj...
Mellseleg a magyar kiadást megszórhatták volna egy csipetnyi jegyzettel, bosszantó, ha még a google sem a barátom, amikor ki szeretném deríteni, mik ezek a zsíros kis 18. századi utalások, pedig nem ijedek meg egy kis keresgéléstől.
Rosa Ramôa
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Quando na mesma pessoa ou no mesmo órgão político o poder legislativo está reunido ao poder executivo não há liberdade.(...)Também não há liberdade se o poder judicial não estiver separado dos poderes legislativo e executivo".
Dec 27, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ce livre m'a appris énormément de choses, néanmoins il a porté un coup fatal à ma fierté Persane. Je ne sais pas vraiment si j'ai adoré ou haï cet ouvrage. Je pense devoir le relire lorsque je serai plus âgée (ou plus sage) et que mon point de vue sera moins biaisé. 3.5/5
Piet Michael
Dec 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: french, philosophy
Pendant la lecture je reflichissais de quelle importance a été la qualité d'un roman pour transporter les idées d'un philosophe.
Apr 10, 2015 rated it liked it
subjectively and exoticly representational
Aug 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This eighteenth century epistolary novel finds Persian noblemen Usbek and Rica writing letters to their friends and wives back in Persia with straight-faced, satiric observations on French customs, behavior and society. The book is not now politically correct, if it ever was, especially the letters to and from the Persian wives and eunuchs of Usbek’s seraglio back in Persia, which were the weakest part of the story. Also, the characters are not particularly distinct, being mostly mouthpieces for ...more
May 03, 2017 rated it liked it
It wasn't terrible for a class-assigned reading. Sometimes, depending on the translation, the words and subjects were hard to follow. Sometimes it was very boring and dry, some letters drug on for a while, while others were amusing or even exciting. I know this was a "secret criticism" from Montesquieu at the time about France, religion, etc. so I had to keep that at the back of my mind the whole time. Otherwise, it could be interpreted as offensive or ignorant in some letters, depending on the ...more
Dec 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
An intriguing exploration of Eastern and Western culture in the 18th century. Usbek and Rica, Persians who travel to Paris, are curious anthropologists questioning the old and the new. The letter form, arguably popularized by Montesquieu, allows for bold narrative development and fascinating plot digressions.

This quote sums up my experience with the book: "The reader is urged to note that the entire charm of the work resides in the constantly recurring contrast between actual reality and the si
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: required-reading
A strangely contemporary post-ironic skewering of Western civilization; something like the Team America of its time. While it ruthlessly mocks Parisian culture, it ultimately vindicates it using hateful and ignorant stereotypes of those who stand outside it. And also much like Team America, it is wildly and spitefully entertaining.
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Goodreads Librari...: Request to add cover 2 15 Apr 08, 2015 11:31AM  
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Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French social commentator and political thinker who lived during the Enlightenment. He is famous for his articulation of the theory of separation of powers, which is taken for granted in modern discussions of government and implemented in many constitutions throughout the world. He wa ...more
More about Montesquieu...

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“What unhappy beings men are! They constantly waver between false hopes and silly fears, and instead of relying on reason they create monsters to frighten themselves with, and phantoms which lead them astray.” 37 likes
“They who love to inform themselves, are never idle. Though I have no business of consequence to take care of, I am nevertheless continually employed. I spend my life in examining things: I write down in the evening whatever I have remarked, what I have seen, and what I have heard in the day: every thing engages my attention, and every thing excites my wonder: I am like an infant, whose organs, as yet tender, are strongly affected by the slightest objects.” 30 likes
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