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In 1758 Diderot's friend the Marquis de Croismare became interested in the cause célèbre of a nun who was appealing to be allowed to leave a Paris convent. Less than a year later, in an affectionate attempt to trick his friend, Diderot created this masterpiece - a fictitious set of desperate and pleading letters to the Marquis from a teenage girl forced into the nunnery because she is illegitimate. In these letters, the impressionable and innocent Suzanne Simonin describes the cruelty and abuse she has suffered in an institution poisoned by vicious gossip, intrigues, persecutions and deviance. Considered too subversive during Diderot's lifetime, The Nun first appeared in print in 1796 following the Revolution. Part gripping novel, part licentious portrayal of sexual fervour and part damning attack on oppressive religious institutions, it remains one of the most utterly original works of the many eighteenth-century.

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