Immensely popular upon its publication in 1721 throughout France and other European countries, "Persian Letters" exemplifies the spirit of that definitive age of libertinism and Enlightenment. Told through the astute observations of two fictional Persian travelers in Europe, this satirical story of eighteenth century French society touches on fundamental questions of human nature, the manners and flirtations of polite society, attitudes on morality, the structures of power, and the hypocrisy of religion. Montesquieu's subtle, witty criticisms of government and social customs are softened through the lens of his central character, Usbek, a young courtier who has travelled to Europe to escape persecution along with Rica, his good-humored travel companion. This brilliant work of Enlightenment literature, suggested to have been an enormous influence on the American Constitution, is a colorful interpretation of early eighteenth century society as well as enduring questions of morality and...

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