Les Liaisons dangereuses: Review

Book: Les Liaisons dangereuses
Author: Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
Reviewed by: Ellyce
Rating: 5/5 stars

Although it seems there are a great number of classics filling our shelves today, few works of literature have managed to truly endure throughout the years and remain such fascinating subjects to each new generation. In that regard, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ defining work is an unparalleled tale that depicts a cunning game of love, betrayal, sex, revenge, and cruelty. Les Liaisons dangereuses has remained a subject of fascination for legions of readers since its release in 1782 and remains so today. Indeed, upon its initial publication, it caused a stir in France, shocking and exciting its readership. Laclos was condemned for his work even as it flew off of the shelves and into the hands of thrilled readers. When it was eventually banned, this did not stop illegal circulation (some complete with lewd illustrations) from being read in droves among intrigued audiences. Today, there have been numerous adaptations among a variety of mediums, including film, opera, theatre, radio, and ballet. It arouses fervid discussion and debate regarding how it should be interpreted and its possible themes (such as the feminist deconstruction of the Marquise de Mereteuil). Some believe that Laclos meant his novel to be a moral lesson to warn his readers; the consequences of such licentious behavior depicted by his characters should be interpreted as having dire consequences. Others dismiss this explanation, as both the heroes and the villains in this novel are of aristocratic standing. Regardless of its original intent or numerous interpretations, Les Liaisons dangereuses remains a necessary component of classic literature.

The story is told through a series of correspondence among two bored aristocrats and the pawns in their game in eighteenth century France. The Marquise de Mereteuil is still smarting from the fact that one of her lovers, the Comte de Gercourt, left her for another woman. Gercourt has now set his eyes on the convent-educated Cécile Volanges, whose virginity he prizes, as his bride. Mereteuil asks her ex-lover, the Vicomte de Valmont, to do her the favor of seducing Cécile, which would turn Gercourt into a laughingstock once he discovered that his bride had already been deflowered. Valmont initially refuses, as he sees the task of seducing a young chit fresh from the schoolroom to be simple and requiring no effort at all. Instead, he has set his sights on seducing a visitor of his aunt’s: the married Présidente de Tourvel. Tourvel is a paragon of virtue famed for her devotion to God and her marriage. Valmont believes that his success in this endeavor will be the crème de la crème of his career as a rogue and thus solidify his skills in seduction as unparalleled. An amused Mereteuil tells Valmont that if he is able to succeed in seducing Tourvel and provides written proof, she will reward him by once more taking him as her lover. So begins a game between the two that doesn’t exactly turn out the way that they expect. Continue reading

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