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.
Charles-Louis de Scondat (1689 - 1755) was born into an eminent family of parliamentaires. He inherited the barony of Monesquieu in 1715 and published the Persian Letters anonymously five years later. Christopher Betts is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of French STudies at the University of Warwick. He has written books and articles on eighteenth-century French fiction and thought and has translated Rousseau's Social Contract