Monday, April 30, 2012
Book Review of Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos DeLaclos
Author: Choderlos DeLaclos
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Type of book: Epistolary novel, 1700s, aristocrats, ancien regime, darkness, France, pick up artists, naivety
Year it was published: 1782 (version I have 1988)
'If this book burns' proclaimed Baudelaire, 'it burns as only ice can burn.'
Marie-Antoinette kept a bound copy of this notorious study of sexual intrigue in her private library; and it was condemned by a criminal court forty years after its publication in 1782 and publicly incinerated. The satanic hero and heroine of this greatest of eighteenth-century novels- a pair of depraved aristocrats- plot and achieve the seduction of a young convent girl with the calm detachment of mathematicians solving an algebraic formula.
Honest to the point of cynicism, this is a fascinating exposure of an aristocracy shortly to perish in the French Revolution.
Through the letters, each character does contain a distinctive voice, and some, like Valmont, are able to fool the reader with love. The only difficulty I had was understanding the supposed love Valmont held towards the Presidente's wife. I think that he always has been a rapscallion and will always be one. I wish I could see Merteul's letters to a love so I could see if she matches up to Valmont. But still, both characters are intriguing, although scary as well. The secondary other characters, such as the wife, Cecile and Danceny, although they are vivid, they will quickly lose the reader's interest. They are drawn vividly, but for some odd reason the author didn't want us to be be drawn to them but instead desired us to focus on Valmont and Merteul.
Be careful of the malice one has because actions will come back and bite him back.
This is in first person narrative, epistolary style, which means its written in a letter form, and its from multiple points of views. Even though it might be seen as a classic due to 1782, it reads very modern. The action is fast moving, although a lot of what Valmont and Merteul talked about really confused me.
Pierre-Ambroise- Francois Choderlos De Laclos was born in 1741, at Amiens. His family was respectable but not distinguished, and at eighteen he entered the army and spent the next twenty years in various garrison towns, and reached the rank of capitaine-commandant without ever seeing battle. He cut a dash in provincial society, however, and in his spare time wrote light verse, some of which was published. He wrote the libretto for Ernestine, a comic opera, which was produced in Paris in 1777, but was not received well. In 1779 he was sent to the island of Aix, where Les Liasons Dangereuses was conceived and written. Comte Alexandre de Tilly recalls him saying: 'I resolved to write a book which would create some stir in the world and continue to do so after I had gone from it,' which it certainly did. He went to Paris in 1781 to supervise the publishing of his book, and overstayed his leave and was promptly ordered back to his regiment. He married Solanges Duperre in 1786 and proved to be an exemplary husband and father. He left the army in 1788 and entered politics and was imprisoned twice during the Reign of Terror, but returned to the army as a general under Napoleon in 1800. He died in Italy in 1803. Laclos also wrote a treatise on the education of women and on Vauban. Towards the end of his life he was considering writing another one to show that true happiness could only be attained in family life.
I first heard of this novel, ironically, from a movie called Cruel Intentions. After watching it, I became curious about it, and the descriptions about it, the dark side of love, of about people playing with people's hearts and are able to fake love and other things really got me intrigued. I will give this novel four stars. The characters very creepy and not someone you ever want to associate with. Even though it was published in 1782, it does read like a modern novel. In a way too it can be thought of something for me and women who love taking advantage of one another. In my personal view, however, the novel is left unfinished in some aspects. What is interesting is that some of it is thought to be have been based on real life.
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)