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Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1782)

by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,980831,405 (4.1)1 / 361
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 andturn seduction into a game. And they play this game with such wit and style that it is impossible not to admire them, until they discover mysterious rules that they cannot understand. In the ensuing battle there can be no winners, and the innocent 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 a world we still inhabit.… (more)
  1. 20
    Cousin Bette by Honoré de Balzac (kristelako)
  2. 10
    The Mandrake Root by Niccolò Machiavelli (timoroso)
  3. 00
    Quartett by Heiner Müller (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: "Quartett": Ein Schauspiel nach Choderlos de Laclos' Gefährliche Liebschaften bearbeitet
  4. 11
    Le Vicomte de Valmont; les Liaisons dangereuses (1) by Chiho Saito (octopedingenue)
    octopedingenue: manga adaptation of the book

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» See also 361 mentions

English (60)  French (10)  Spanish (4)  Dutch (3)  Italian (2)  Portuguese (1)  Czech (1)  German (1)  All languages (82)
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
  archivomorero | Jun 25, 2022 |
My first reread of the year was this 18th century scandalous classic. The book is entirely epistolary, which I always think is impressive for an author to manage. They have to work out location, keeping characters apart so that letters are necessary, and also create a unique voice for each character. I think Laclos does a very good job with this. He creates characters that are "evil" but also have so much life and wit that you can't help enjoying them. Both times I read this, I was actually sort of sad at the ending, where everyone sort of gets what is coming to them.

I do think the book drags a bit in the middle, and the letters between Valmont and the righteous Presidente de Tourvel are intolerably annoying. But the Marquise de Merteuil is fabulous even though she's trying to ruin lives, and I also love the innocent but life-loving Cecile Volanges.

A 250 year old book that is still highly readable and still salacious today is well worth reading in my opinion. ( )
  japaul22 | Feb 12, 2022 |
I now have three editions of this book even though I don’t enjoy reading it very much. It’s a curious book in that way. The two main characters are just so creepy and despicable but the writing is so good I didn’t want to stop reading. Despite the fact that I know the story well enough that I could have stopped and still written most of this review. That would defeat the purpose of The Whole Book Experience, which is to try to describe the experience of reading a book in a specific edition.

I first experienced Choderlos de Laclos’ masterpiece in the theatre in the ‘80s, where Glenn Close and John Malkovich masterfully acted out the creepiness of the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont. The film was uncomfortably great, if my memory serves me. I’m not much for film but have promised my partner, who has never seen it, a movie night now that I have two reads of the novel under my belt. My first read was in the very nice 1979 Folio Society edition, itself a reprint of their 1962 edition. At some point I added the 1940 Nonesuch Press edition, found at a used bookstore at a price and condition too good to pass up. Both of these have very nice illustrations, by Raymond Hawthorn and Chas Laborde, respectively.

I saw the Black Sun edition at the San Francisco Antiquarian Book Fair when I was in the city for CODEX 2011. The decadence of Alistair’s illustrations seemed to me to be a perfect match for the story. I passed on that particular copy and didn’t see another until I found my copy ten years later. My recollection is that that first copy I saw was paper-wrapped and so I believed that was how they were all bound. The copy I have is hardbound and I was told it was the original binding. The colophon is no help with the binding and I couldn’t find much information on how this state was originally bound.

The mystery, idiosyncrasies, and drama of the Black Sun Press itself also makes this book interesting. The press was founded in Paris in 1927 by Caresse and Harry Crosby. I would have to say Caresse seemed to be the main progenitor and impetus behind the press and its legacy, while also having other curious achievements like having one of the earliest patents on the brassiere and being an early producer of and believer in paperback books. Harry contributed for two years before killing himself in a suicide pact with one of his lovers, fittingly in the same year as les liaisons dangereuses came out. Caresse kept the press in operation until she died in 1970, although output was pretty sparse by then. Still, with authors like James Joyce, Hart Crane, Marcel Proust, D.H. Lawrence, Hemingway, and Faulkner in her portfolio, that’s pretty impressive.

Finally having the Black Sun edition made me enjoy a re-read much more than I might have otherwise. While the Moirans paper isn’t as tactile as some papers, it has a pleasing lined visual aesthetic and a very nice watermark (I have a bit of a watermark fetish along with my tactile love of fine papers). However, the paper is very thin so I had to use great care with my book darts when marking passages and typos. And I used a lot of book darts. Usually I am primarily marking passages I like for one reason or another and want to come back to, or remember, or use in a review, along with a handful of typos. But this edition set a record for the number of typos I’ve ever encountered in a lifetime of reading: 108. In 538 pages. In a modern novel typeset and proofed on a computer this would be inexcusable. It’s a sign of how much I like everything else about this edition that I could tolerate and even be amused as the typo count grew during my reading. There were also occasional vertical lines next to a letter that may have been from worn or uneven type. So I have to say the edition is a far cry from books by a press that Wikipedia describes as having a reputation for producing “typographically flawless editions”.

The large page size at 8.5 x 11” allowed for generous margins making it an easy read despite the relatively small font size. Chapter headings and first initials in red were a nice but ironic choice for the “love” story. The binding is a smooth, finely woven purple bookcloth stamped in gold gilt lettering and then paper-wrapped in a dust jacket also printed in two colors.

While there is no supplemental material in the Black Sun edition, there is a lot of insight to be gained into both the book and the author in the Introduction to the Folio Society edition and the Preface to the Nonesuch Press edition, by Richard Adlington and André Gide, respectively. While not much seems to be reliably known about Laclos as a person, Aldington writes that

"He belonged to the petite noblesse, the minor ‘gentry’ of France, who were exploited by the ancient régime because they were poor, proud and patriotic and who received their reward under the Revolution too often in the shape of imprisonment and the guillotine."

And that les liaisons dangereuses was written during his posting in Aix but was based on his experiences and observances in a previous posting in Grenoble. He writes further that the

" … book was the revenge of a disappointed man of genius, fretting against a system which condemned him to obscurity and monotonous routine in a subaltern position."

He was a career military man who adapted to the rapidly changing winds of fortune in France: joining the army before the Revolution, a Freemason, an Orleanist, a republican, a Bonapartist, etc. It’s seems as surprising as if Oliver North wrote one literary book that was good enough to still be read hundreds of years later.

In Gide’s Preface, he makes no bones about what he thinks of the book:

"And so, every summer, I read over again a few great books, books sanctified by the admiration of several generations, to find in them, almost always, virtues unseen before. I appreciate them no less than I did at the first reading, though not always for the same reasons as then…I have little use for conventional pieties, and insist on my right to hold nothing as established unless I have first of all put it to the test for myself.

Well, Laclos’ book stands the test. Re-reading it confirms my view of its importance, and convinces me that it well deserves to be held in high esteem."

He further makes the observation that

"Yet this book, diabolical as its inspiration is, turns out, like every work of profound observation and exact expression, to contain, without the author’s desire, much more instruction on morals than many a well-intentioned treatise."

As for my feeling about the novel, especially in this Black Sun edition, I’ll just let a quote from the book sum up my feelings:

“Adieu. I love you nevertheless, just as much as though you were reasonable.”

AVAILABILITY: Good luck and have patience. In the meantime my Nonesuch Press was less than $20 and my Folio Society not much more, I believe.

For this review complete with photos check out my blog THE WHOLE BOOK EXPERIENCE
  jveezer | Oct 14, 2021 |
Celebrated for its exploration of seduction, revenge and malice, presented in the form of fictional letters collected and published by a fictional author. The book was viewed as scandalous at the time of its publication, though the real intentions of the author remain unknown. It has been suggested that Laclos's intention was the same as that of his fictional author in the novel; to write a morality tale about the French nobility of the Ancien Régime. The theory has been questioned on several grounds; Laclos enjoyed the patronage of France's most senior aristocrat—Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans. All the characters in the story are aristocrats, including the virtuous ones like Madame de Tourvel and Madame de Rosemonde and many royalist and conservative figures enjoyed the book, including Queen Marie Antoinette, which suggests that—despite its scandalous reputation—it was not viewed as a political work until the French Revolution made it appear as such, with the benefit of hindsight.

Les Liaisons dangereuses is a literary counter-thesis to the epistolary novel as exemplified by Richardson's Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded. Whereas Richardson uses the technique of letters to provide the reader with a feeling of knowing the protagonist's true and intimate thoughts, Laclos' use of this literary device is the opposite: by presenting the reader with grossly conflicting views from the same writer when addressing different recipients, it is left to the reader to reconcile story, intentions and characters behind the letters. The use of duplicitous characters with one virtuous face can be viewed as a complex criticism of the immensely popular naïve moral epistolary novel. ( )
  Marcos_Augusto | Aug 28, 2021 |
  hpryor | Aug 8, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
35 livres cultes à lire au moins une fois dans sa vie
Quels sont les romans qu'il faut avoir lu absolument ? Un livre culte qui transcende, fait réfléchir, frissonner, rire ou pleurer… La littérature est indéniablement créatrice d’émotions. Si vous êtes adeptes des classiques, ces titres devraient vous plaire.
De temps en temps, il n'y a vraiment rien de mieux que de se poser devant un bon bouquin, et d'oublier un instant le monde réel. Mais si vous êtes une grosse lectrice ou un gros lecteur, et que vous avez épuisé le stock de votre bibliothèque personnelle, laissez-vous tenter par ces quelques classiques de la littérature.
Martin de Haan, die eerder onder meer het werk van Houellebecq en Kundera vertaalde, maakt het boek onder de titel Riskante relaties levendiger en spannender dan het tevoren in het Nederlands ooit was. Dit komt vooral doordat hij er, veel meer dan Adriaan Morriën die de tot nu toe bekendste vertaling maakte, verbluffend goed in slaagt de zeven heel verschillende personages die de brieven schrijven, tot leven te wekken.
added by Jozefus | editNRC Handelsblad, Judith Eiselin (pay site) (Jan 12, 2018)
Les Liaisons dangereuses is not only a terrifying portrayal of high society, of a ruling class who have ceased to rule, it is one of the world's finest novels, as well as a dramatic presentation of a mature and analytic philosophy of the nature of evil and the interactions of human motivations. After this one book, a pivot in the history of the novel, things could never be the same again, not at least for any novelist who read and understood it...

It is all so elegant. Even the priests and nuns are elegant, but of course the devils are the most elegant of all. In the end they have nothing else, and then that is destroyed. What destroys them is their rivalry in evil. Unlike Milton's Hell, there is hierarchy in this human one, Lucifer and Beelzebub, male and female, ex-lovers who have already violated each other's pride, are enemies, each hiding hate from the other. The instrument of their destruction is their reason. They are Socrates' or Diderot's fully rational human beings. They use their reason to destroy others and are at last destroyed by their own irrationality—something they did not beheve existed.
added by SnootyBaronet | editSaturday Review, Kenneth Rexroth

» Add other authors (80 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Laclos, Pierre Choderlos deprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aldington, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Allem, MauriceEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beretta Anguissola, AlbertoIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bigliosi Franck, CinziaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Coward, DavidIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Delon, MichelEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fehr, A.J.A.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kekomäki, LeenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malraux, AndréIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morriën, AdriaanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Papadopoulos, JoëlNotessecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parmée, DouglasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Praquin, PierreCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ruata, AdolfoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stone, P. W. K.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Ik heb de zeden van mijn tijd gezien en deze brieven openbaar gemaakt. – J.-J. Rousseau, voorwoord bij Julie ou La Nouvelle Héloïse
First words
Well, Sophie dear, as you see, I'm keeping my word and not spending all my time on bonnets and bows, I'll always have some to spare for you!
I was amazed at the pleasure a good deed can produce and I'm tempted to think that those so-called virtuous people don't deserve quite as much credit as we are invited to believe.
I perceive that it is three o'clock in the morning, and that I have written a volume, with the intention but to write a word. Such is the charm of confident friendship: 'tis on account of that, that you are always he whom I love the best; but, in truth, the Chevalier pleases me more.
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Les Liaisons Dangereuses was published under the title Valmont to tie-in with the Milos Forman film. It is the same book and should not be separated.
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Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Wikipedia in English


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 andturn seduction into a game. And they play this game with such wit and style that it is impossible not to admire them, until they discover mysterious rules that they cannot understand. In the ensuing battle there can be no winners, and the innocent 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 a world we still inhabit.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140449574, 0141195142


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