Sunday, February 10, 2008

Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

Title: Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Author: Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
ISBN: 0140441166
Publisher: Penguin Classics
No. of pages: 396
Other info: Translation and introduction by P W K Stone
Rating: 8/10

Synopsis (from
The complex moral ambiguities of seduction and revenge make Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782) one of the most scandalous and controversial novels in European literature. The subject of major film and stage adaptations, the novel's prime movers, the Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil, form an unholy alliance and turn seduction into a game - a game which they must win. This new translation gives Laclos a modern voice, and readers will be able a judge whether the novel is as 'diabolical' and 'infamous' as its critics have claimed, or whether it has much to tell us about the kind of world we ourselves live in.

I loved that the book was written solely in the form of letters between the various characters. Each character had a very distinct “voice” and their interaction as plots were devised and completed was fascinating. In particular, I found Marquise de Merteuil to be completely Machiavellian in her approach to everything. Her attention to detail and every possibility was nothing short of genius. Vicomte de Valmont has to be one of the most charmingly seductive characters ever written, and his constant display of deviant cunning is marvellous. These two driving forces are a winning combination that cannot fail… or can they? It seems that vanity is the downfall of one, whilst a change of heart causes the utter ostrazisation of the other.

This novel is sensual and glamorises depravity, but imparts a moralistic lesson that willful deviance carries the seeds of its own destruction. Being written entirely in letter form, it lends itself to short bursts of reading, and so it is perfect for those who have very little time to sit and read for any length of time. The writing is beautiful and cleverly arranged to keep the reader hooked on every page.

Highly recommended!


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