"... one of the three or four most influential novels of the French Enlightenment, with an impact comparable to that of Candide."
Professor of French, University of Iowa
Kidnapped by the Spaniards during their conquest of Peru, the Inca princess Zilia is torn from her homeland and her future husband, Aza. In these letters to Aza, she describes the torments she endures during her trip across the Atlantic, her capture by the French after a battle at sea, and her arrival on the European continent. During the latter part of her voyage, Zilia benefits from the kindness of the ship's commander, Déterville, who calms her fears and begins to teach her the elements of the French language. Believing that she is being transported to an outer province of the Inca Empire, Zilia hopes that her new friend will eventually help her find her way back to Peru. In Paris she learns to communicate with Déterville and his family and discovers that her protector has fallen in love with her.
One of the most popular works of the eighteen century, Lettres d'une Péruvienne appeared in more than 130 editions, reprints, and translations during the hundred years following its publication in 1747. Graffigny's brilliant novel offered a bold critique of French society, delivered one of the most vehement feminist protests in eighteen-century literature, and announced - fourteen years before Rousseau's Julie, ou la Nouvelle Héloïse - the Romantic tradition in French literature. This new edition of Lettres d'une Péruvienne will delight and surprise modern readers.