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Author: Flora Tristan
Social critic, author of the famous London Journal, ardent socialist and feminist, Tristan earned in her lifetime a notoriety not just for her writings on politics but for the personal revelations contained in this book.  Published in France in 1838, it is a story of her visit to Peru in 1833-34 to claim a share of her father's family fortune.  In that respect the mission failed, but the journey inspired some marvelous tales: of a five-month voyage around the Cape in the Mexicain, whose charming Captain Chabrie proves a suitor of unflinching zeal; of her uncle Don Pio, patriarch and politician; of the manners and customs of Peruvian society; of her extraordinary role as intermediary between factions involved in Peru's revolutionary struggle.  Overriding even these experiences, however, is Tristan's passionate account of her battle to sever her marriage and to retain custody of her children at a time when divorce in France was illegal.  In publicly denouncing her husband, Tristan created a scandal, but in Peregrinations personal odyssey and travelogue combine in a portrayal of a woman's journey toward independence.
From Helynne
Flora Tristan (1803-1844) is one of the "big four" of 19th-century French women novelists. However, she, Marie d'Agoult, and Hortense Allart, are generally eclipsed by the still brightly burning star of George Sand, who was considerably more prolific. Nevertheless, Tristan is a fascinating persona who endured much trauma in her life, but still managed to strike early blows for feminism and better conditions for the working class in France. Forced into an unhappy marriage by her mother, Tristan had three children, then separated from her husband when her surviving son and daughter were still small. This 1836 memoir describes how she left her children in the care of relatives and friends, then made an unpleasant trip from France to Peru to try to claim the inheritance left by her Peruvian-Spanish father. During her rough crossing to South America,the sea captain and at least one other Frenchman fell in love with her and wished to marry her. (Under the anti-divorce laws of France’s Code Napoléon, which were in place through most of the 19th century, she was never allowed the legal freedom to remarry despite many offers from these men and several others in Peru). Tristan's vivid descriptions of her journey in Peregrinations (which means “wanderings”) of a Pariah (which means “outcast”), show that she saw herself as an instrument to serve mankind, particularly through her compassion for blacks, indigenous South Americans (both races were always slaves, and horrific numbers of them died in sugar refineries), and poor, uneducated whites. (Critics say that Tristan, because of her humanitarian goals, saw herself as a pariah--perhaps more than she really was). Her comments on various aspects of Peruvian society from the frightful lack of education of the common people, to slavery, to the bad tempers of llamas are expressed honestly and boldly. I particularly admired how she ridiculed the hypocrisy of the ruling class as well as the Catholic Church in Peru. “. . . If the [ruling classes:] had really wanted to organize a republic they would have sought to encourage the growth of the civic virtues at every level of society by means of education, but as power, not liberty, is the goal of the bunch of adventurers who take it in turns to exercise authority, the work of despotism proceeds, and in order to keep the oppressed people in a state of submission, they join hands with the priests to perpetuate superstition and prejudice among them.” Throughout her life, Tristan believed in the dignity of honest work (“There is no doubt that intelligent labor is the best human wisdom”) and in women's independence. She shows much sympathy for the nuns who were virtual prisoners in certain Peruvian convents and champions the few who were able to escape. She asserts that women are general superior in character to men, but that women must "cultivate her intelligence and exercise her self-control" in order to retain this superiority. Finally, she calls the Peruvians lazy, idol, hedonistic gamblers who spend too much money of materials things while neglecting education for the masses. She blames this attitude on the lack of fine arts in and schools in the country, both of which would guide and temper the people's imaginations and vitality. Tristan returned to France in 1835, and although she was not successful in obtaining her inheritance (her Peruvian uncle granted her only a small allowance, which he eventually took away as soon as he read her unflattering portrait of him in this book as a miser), her adventures in Peru show her spunk and determination to make a difference in the world. Another of Tristan’s books, The Workers’ Union, champions the rights of the French workers by promoting the humanitarian ideals of both Christianity and the French Revolution. Another short work Promenades dans Londres (1840) is an indictment of social conditions in England. Her only novel Méphis, ou le proletaire advocates the importance of each person being useful to mankind. Her last book, L'Emancipation de la femme was published posthumously in 1845. The trauma of a bad marriage, the voyage to Peru, and later, a harsh, self-imposed tour of France to promote workers’ rights took its toll on Tristan, and she died of typhoid fever in Bordeaux at age 41. Nevertheless, she left us not only with her bold social views, but also with a more personal legacy. She was the grandmother of the post-impressionist painter Paul Gauguin.
$14.95 (softcover)
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