Synopses & Reviews
A new translation of one of the most notorious novels of all time
Published just years before the French Revolution, Laclos's great novel of moral and emotional depravity is a disturbing and ultimately damning portrayal of a decadent society. Aristocrats and ex-lovers Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont embark on a sophisticated game of seduction and manipulation to bring amusement to their jaded lives. While Merteuil challenges Valmont to seduce an innocent convent girl, he is also occupied with the conquest of a virtuous married woman. Eventually their human pawns respond, and the consequences prove to be more serious-and deadly-than the players could have ever predicted.
"If this book burns, it burns as only ice can burn."
The complex moral ambiguities of seduction and revenge make Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782) one of the most scandalous and controversial novels in European literature. Its prime movers, the Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil, gifted, wealthy, and bored, form an unholy alliance and turn seduction into a game - a game which they must win. And they play with such wit and style that it is impossible not to admire them - until they discover that the game has mysterious rules that they cannot understand. In the ensuing vicious battle there can be no victors, and the innocent will suffer with the guilty. This new translation gives Laclos a modern voice, and readers will be able to 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.
About the Author
Choderlos de Laclos
(1741-1803) entered the army at the age of eighteen and reached the rank of capitaine-commandant
without seeing battle. He was sent to the island of Aix, where Dangerous Liaisons
Helen Constantine, current chairman of the Translators' Association, has translated Théophile Gautier's Mademoiselle de Maupin for Penguin Classics.