Dangerous Liaisons – the decadence of the French aristocracy

One great, diabolic masterpiece

author : Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
illustrator : George Barbier

download pdf– french text “Les Liaisons dangereuses”
via Internet Archive

download pdf – english text “Dangerous connections”
via Project Gutenberg


Although the epistolary novel had grown in prominence throughout the 18th century, it finally arrived at its finest moment by the pen of Choderlos de Laclos whose book is considered as his one great, diabolic masterpiece, and produced a huge scandal right after its first publishing. ( published by Neveu in March 23, 1782, in four volumes).
By the form of fictional letters, which are collected and published by a fictional author, Les Liaisons dangereuses it is known for its exploration of seduction, revenge and human malice and has also been described as an amoral story.

a soft Marquis de Sade

The book describes the decadence of the French aristocracy before the French Revolution, thereby exposing the perversions of the so-called Ancien Régime.
Laclos’s descriptions of his personages, linked with actual individuals in society, is compared with the novels of the notorious Marquis de Sade. Despite its banning in 1824, it was even subjected to censorship until the 19th century, was therefore sold on the black market and read secretly.

plot

Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, two rivals (and ex-lovers) who use seduction and sex as a weapon to manipulate, humiliate and degrade others, all the while enjoying their cruel games and boasting about their manipulative talents.

The end of the novel does not present a true moral that clearly distinguishes good from bad. The most important is that the reader is put in an ambiguous position that makes him an accomplice to the libertines.
The two main “amoral” characters fascinate the reader, who cannot stop himself from secretly admiring them.

Barbier’s illustrations are from the 1934.edition

 

As an epistolary novel, the book is composed entirely of letters written by the various characters to each other

The Vicomte de Valmont is determined to seduce the virtuous, married, and therefore inaccessible Madame de Tourvel

The letters between Valmont and the Marquise drive the plot

All the characters of the novel have been ensnared in a web of desire and deceit

The book was translated to English in the 1920s, and often published under the title “Dangerous Connections”

Decadent excesses, power struggles, extreme narcissism and the stultifying hierarchies of an ancien regime that was soon to be swept away in the revolution

The book was widely read and discussed, brought Laclos fame and notoriety and retained the reputation as highly dangerous well into the nineteenth century

 

 

 

 

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