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Travels in Persia, 1673-1677 Paperback – 28 Mar 2003
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I had to be patient with the detail of his negotiations for his Jewels, but once through that, he delivers on detail.
It's a Muslim country, very well off, with slaves and quite easy crops. It's also a beautiful, healthy, and friendly place. The Persians come across reasonably well, but not particularly reliable.
Referred to by other great figures like Rousseau and Montesquieu, Chardin was revealing the mysterious East with this book, and the rich life it describes humanises the place and her people.
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However, for the most part, it was borderline painful. Although I admire Chardin's dedication to recording and learning so much information about the Persian society, writing was simply not his strong suit--though I do give him some benefit of the doubt considering this text was translated. Still, in several instances, it seemed that he could not make up his mind about the Persians; that is, in regards to how he felt about them. One second he revered them tirelessly, and another... well, let's just say it's been a while since I've heard--or to be more precise, read--so much trash talk about a culture. With that alone, it's shocking to discover that this book is "widely regarded as one of the great classics of travel and exploration."
All in all, although this text is centuries old, I would have enjoyed it a lot more had he hired a better editor (if he ever did, that is, because my goodness, was he repetitive and long-winded!) and remained at least a bit more impartial to the information he was providing.
As for the printing... by far the worst I've ever encountered in a book. The inner margins of the text are too close to the spine of the book, reading the ends of lines practically required an act of congress... that, or two very heavy objects to keep it as open as possible.
Chances are, the only reason you will ever read this book is for school (as was my case), or because your job requires it for some reason or another. If anything good comes out of reading this book, it's that it is the ultimate cure for insomnia.
This particular tome relates in the first section (or volume) his experience as a merchant, when the shah of Persia commissioned him to buy some jewels in Europe. The old shah died and negotiations---tedious, extended and hypocritical---ensued with the new shah’s minister. It also gives some historical anecdotes. The second section is more pedantic. It relates the fauna, the flora, the geography and the economy of the kingdom, but at times not to a very great depth. Nevertheless, one can detect the beginnings of what came to be known as the naturalist movement in science. Somewhat more detailed is the ethnography, or anthropology if you will, of the inhabitants, as well as the subject of commerce