Dangerous Liaisons – the decadence of the French aristocracy
One great, diabolic masterpiece
author : Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
illustrator : George Barbier
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.
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