Lettres d'une Peruvienne

Françoise de Graffigny

For Enlightenment writers, the model of the noble savage was an excellent strategy to critique the moral decay and over-sophistication they observed in Europe. One of the most successful examples is Lettres d'une péruvienne ("Letters from a Peruvian woman") by Françoise de Graffigny (1695–1758). This epistolary novel, with letters written by the Inca princess Zilia from France to her lover Aza in Peru, presents a satirical view of French life, particularly the conditions of French women, through the eyes of an outsider. The original ending, where Zilia chooses celibacy over marriage in the name of happiness and independence, frustrated many contemporary readers. The novel, originally published anonymously, became an absolute bestseller with over 130 editions. The JCB holds twelve of those in French, English, Italian and Spanish.

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