Letters of a Peruvian Woman, By Françoise de Graffigny

Click to follow

This epistolary novel was a bestseller in the 18th century and retains a startling significance for our own time. De Graffigny used the device of an Inca captive, rescued and transported to Paris, for a Swiftian analysis of her own society. Her heroine Zilia is scathing about young French women:

"Her pastimes are usually childish, always pointless... People fill her mind with nothing but malicious or empty trivialities." These acid comments are embedded in the sugary coating of a love story, yet even this sentimental convention is suborned in a startling finale, when Zilia dumps her dilatory Peruvian lover with an existential cri de coeur: "Saying I am, I live, I exist is alone enough to bring happiness.".

Comments