Summary Persian Letters

Sh. L. de Montesquieu
Persian Letters
The novel’s action covers 1711-1720. The epistolary form of the work and the extra spicy material from the life of Persian harems, a peculiar construction with exotic details, full of bright wit and ironic description, accurate characteristics enabled the author to interest the most diverse audience to court circles inclusive. During the author’s lifetime, “Persian Letters” survived 12 editions. The novel deals with the problems of the state structure, domestic and foreign policy issues, religious issues, religious tolerance, a decisive and courageous shelling of autocratic rule and, in particular, the incompetent and extravagant reign of Louis XIV. Arrows fall and into the Vatican, ridicules the monks, ministers, the whole society.
Uzbek and Rika, the protagonists, the Persians, whose curiosity forced them to leave their homeland and go on a trip, conduct regular correspondence both with their friends and with each other. Uzbek in one of his letters to a friend reveals the true reason for his departure. He was introduced to the court in his youth, but this did not spoil him. Unmasking the vice, preaching the truth and preserving sincerity, he makes himself a lot of enemies and decides to leave the yard. Under a plausible pretext (study of the Western sciences) with the consent of the shah, Uzbek leaves the fatherland. There, in Spain, he owned a serial (palace) with a harem, in which were the most beautiful females of Persia.
Friends begin their journey with Erzurum, then their way lies in Tokat and Smyrna – the lands subject to the Turks. The Turkish empire lives at that time the last years of its greatness. Pasha, who only receive money for their money, come to the provinces and rob them as conquered countries, soldiers obey their whims. The cities were deserted, the villages were devastated, agriculture and trade in complete decline. While the European nations are improving day by day, they stagnate in their primitive ignorance. In all the vast expanses of the country, only Smyrna can be regarded as a rich and strong city, but it is made by such Europeans. Concluding the description of Turkey to his friend Rustan, Uzbek writes: “This empire, not passed two centuries, will become a theater of triumphs for some conqueror.”
After forty days of sailing our heroes fall into Livorno, one of the blooming cities of Italy. The Christian city first seen is a great sight for the Mohammedan. The difference in buildings, clothes, main customs, even in the slightest trifle, is something extraordinary. Women enjoy more freedom here: they only wear one veil (Persian women – four), they are free to go out on the street any day, accompanied by some old women, their sons-in-law, uncles, nephews can look at them, and husbands almost never take offense at it. Soon, travelers travel to Paris, the capital of the European empire. Rika after a month of metropolitan life will share her impressions with her friend Ibben. Paris, he writes, is as great as Spasaghan, “the houses in it are so high that you can swear that only astrologers live in them.” The pace of life in the city is quite different; Parisians flee, fly, they would have fainted from the slow wagons of Asia, from the measured step of the camels. The Eastern man is absolutely not fit for this running around. The French are very fond of theater, comedy – art, unfamiliar to Asians, because by nature they are more serious. This seriousness of the inhabitants of the East is due to the fact that they do not communicate much with each other: they see each other only when they are forced to do this by a ceremonial, they almost do not know the friendship that constitutes here the delight of life; they sit at home, so that each family is isolated. Men in Persia do not have the liveliness of the French, they do not see spiritual freedom and contentment, which in France are characteristic of all estates. The Eastern man is absolutely not fit for this running around. The French are very fond of theater, comedy – art, unfamiliar to Asians, because by nature they are more serious. This seriousness of the inhabitants of the East is due to the fact that they do not communicate much with each other: they see each other only when they are forced to do this by a ceremonial, they almost do not know the friendship that constitutes here the delight of life; they sit at home, so that each family is isolated. Men in Persia do not have the liveliness of the French, they do not see spiritual freedom and contentment, which in France are characteristic of all estates. The Eastern man is absolutely not fit for this running around. The French are very fond of theater, comedy – art, unfamiliar to Asians, because by nature they are more serious. This seriousness of the inhabitants of the East is due to the fact that they do not communicate much with each other: they see each other only when they are forced to do this by a ceremonial, they almost do not know the friendship that constitutes here the delight of life; they sit at home, so that each family is isolated. Men in Persia do not have the liveliness of the French, they do not see spiritual freedom and contentment, which in France are characteristic of all estates. they see each other only when they are forced to do this by a ceremonial, they almost do not know the friendship that constitutes here the delight of life; they sit at home, so that each family is isolated. Men in Persia do not have the liveliness of the French, they do not see spiritual freedom and contentment, which in France are characteristic of all estates. they see each other only when they are forced to do this by a ceremonial, they almost do not know the friendship that constitutes here the delight of life; they sit at home, so that each family is isolated. Men in Persia do not have the liveliness of the French, they do not see spiritual freedom and contentment, which in France are characteristic of all estates.
Meanwhile, from the Uzbek harem, alarming news comes. One of the wives, Zasha, was caught alone with a white eunuch who immediately, on Uzbek orders, paid for his treachery and unfaithfulness with his head. White and black eunuchs (white eunuchs are not allowed to enter the harem’s rooms) – low slaves who blindly fulfill all the desires of women and at the same time force them to obey...

unquestioningly the laws of the seraglio. Women lead a measured life: they do not play cards, do not spend sleepless nights, do not drink wine and almost never go out into the air, since the serals are not adapted for pleasure, everything is impregnated with obedience and duty. Uzbek, telling about these customs to a familiar Frenchman, hears in response that Asians are forced to live with slaves, whose heart and mind always feel their condition humiliated. What can you expect from a person, whose entire honor consists in guarding the wives of another, and who is proud of the most vile post that only exists among people. The slave agrees to endure the tyranny of a stronger sex, just to be able to bring to despair a weaker one. “This most of all pushes me in your ways, finally free yourself from prejudice,” concludes the Frenchman. But Uzbek is unshakable and considers traditions sacred. Rika, in turn, watching the Parisians, in one of the letters to Ibben, talks about women’s freedom and leans toward the idea that the power of women is natural: it is the power of beauty that nothing can resist, and the tyrannical power of a man is not in all countries extends to women, and the power of beauty is universal. Rika will notice about himself: “My mind discreetly loses what is left in it as an Asian, and effortlessly adapts to European mores; I learned women only from the time I was here: in one month I studied them more than I could in a seraglio for thirty years. “Rika, sharing her impressions of the peculiarities of the French with Uzbek, notes that unlike their compatriots, whose characters are all monotonous, because they are tortured (“you do not see at all what people really are, but you see them only as they are forced to be”), in France, pretense is the art of the unknown. with each other, everyone listens to each other, the heart is open Just like the face, playfulness is one of the national traits
Uzbek discusses the problems of the state structure, because, while in Europe, he saw many different forms of government, and here it is not the same as in Asia, where political rules are everywhere the same. Reflecting on which board is most reasonable, he comes to the conclusion that perfect is one that achieves its goals with the least cost: if under soft rule the people are as obedient as under strict, then the first should be preferred. More or less severe punishments imposed by the state do not promote greater obedience to laws. The latter are also afraid in those countries where the punishment is moderate, as in those where they are tyrannical and terrible. Imagination adapts itself to the customs of this country: an eight-day imprisonment or a small fine also acts on a European, educated in a country with a soft rule, like losing a hand to an Asian. Most European governments are monarchical. This condition is violent, and it sooner or later degenerates into either despotism or the republic. The history and origin of the republics are described in detail in one of the Uzbek letters. Most of the Asians do not know this form of government. The formation of the republics took place in Europe, as for Asia and Africa, they have always been oppressed by despotism, with the exception of several small Asian cities and the Carthage Republic in Africa. Freedom was created, apparently, for the European peoples, and slavery – for the Asian people. The history and origin of the republics are described in detail in one of the Uzbek letters. Most of the Asians do not know this form of government. The formation of the republics took place in Europe, as for Asia and Africa, they have always been oppressed by despotism, with the exception of several small Asian cities and the Carthage Republic in Africa. Freedom was created, apparently, for the European peoples, and slavery – for the Asian people. The history and origin of the republics are described in detail in one of the Uzbek letters. Most of the Asians do not know this form of government. The formation of the republics took place in Europe, as for Asia and Africa, they have always been oppressed by despotism, with the exception of several small Asian cities and the Carthage Republic in Africa. Freedom was created, apparently, for the European peoples, and slavery – for the Asian people.
Uzbek in one of his last letters does not hide disappointment from traveling through France. He saw a people, generous by nature, but gradually corrupted. In all hearts an unquenchable thirst for wealth was born and the goal to get rich through not honest labor, but the ruin of the sovereign, the state and fellow citizens. The clergy do not stop before the transactions that ruin his trusting flock. So, we see that, as the stay of our heroes in Europe is prolonged, the morals of this part of the world begin to appear to them less surprising and strange, and they are amazed by this surprisingness and strangeness to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the difference in their characters. On the other hand, as the absence of the Uzbek in the harem is prolonged, disorder in the Asian Seraglio increases.
Uzbek is extremely concerned about what is happening in his palace, as the head of the eunuchs reports to him about the unthinkable things happening there. Zeli, going to the mosque, drops the veil and appears before the people. Zasha is found in bed with one of her slaves – and this is strictly prohibited by laws. In the evening a young man was found in the garden of the seraglio, moreover, eight days of his wife were spent in a village, in one of the most secluded cottages, together with two men. Soon, Uzbek learns the clue. Roxana, his beloved wife, writes a death letter in which she confesses that she cheated her husband by bribing the eunuchs and, laughing at Uzbek’s jealousy, turned the disgusting seraglio into a place for enjoyment and pleasure. Her lover, the only person who tied Roxana to life, did not become, therefore, taking poison, she follows him. Turning her last words in her life to her husband, Roxanne confesses her hatred of him. The unruly, proud woman writes: “No, I could live in captivity, but I was always free: I replaced your laws with the laws of nature, and my mind always kept independence.” The immortal letter of Roxana Uzbek to Paris completes the narrative.


Summary Persian Letters