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Les Liaisons dangereuses

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  40,602 ratings  ·  1,346 reviews
The complex moral ambiguities of seduction and revenge make Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782) one of the most scandalous and controversial novels in European literature. The subject of major film and stage adaptations, the novel's prime movers, the Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil, form an unholy alliance and turn seduction into a game - a game which they must win. This ...more
Paperback, Oxford World's Classics, 448 pages
Published March 18th 1999 by Oxford University Press (first published March 24th 1782)
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Letitia I'm taking a class on this book with Professor Arnold Weinstein and he recommends the 1961 P.W.K. Stone translation. I am reading it right now (had to…moreI'm taking a class on this book with Professor Arnold Weinstein and he recommends the 1961 P.W.K. Stone translation. I am reading it right now (had to buy the paperback off Amazon as this translation is not available on Kindle). Compared to the few other versions I briefly skimmed, I found Stone's language more elegant and nuanced, and he leaves meticulous notes to help you understand the historical context. But if you're looking for no-frills, modern directness then this may not be the version for you.(less)
Ellen By the end of the story, none of the letters are meaningless. They all fill a particular place, even if it is just character development. I would love…moreBy the end of the story, none of the letters are meaningless. They all fill a particular place, even if it is just character development. I would love to know your opinion after you finish reading the book!(less)

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Average rating 4.07  · 
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 ·  40,602 ratings  ·  1,346 reviews


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Bill Kerwin

Dangerous Liaisons improves as it progresses. I was tempted to abandon it, but I persisted and am glad, for--although this epistolary novel of the last days of the ancien regime initially appears to be stylish but superficial--it soon grows in both subtlety and power.

Many of the difficulties of the book are perhaps inevitable in any work that chronicles seduction in epistolary form. The letters of the wicked are elegant, the letters of the good are instructive, but the letters of the naive and innocent are b
...more
William2
Apr 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolutely magnificent novel! To think that it was published in 1782, seven years before the French Revolution. Liberté égalité fraternité! It has been argued that the novel thus caught a doomed aristocracy distracted by decadent and libertine ways that would soon be its undoing. The gift the novel's main characters display for casuistry, calumny, prevarication and cynical self-involvement takes the breath away. The novel is so tightly wrapped, so self-referential, that I doubt I will find an extraneous ...more
Lisa
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Oh the painful brilliance of these letters!

Someone recently said to me that it is sad that people have stopped writing old-fashioned letters, being so much more personal and private than the frequently impolite, monosyllabic insults people tend to spit out on Twitter, Facebook and in various comment threads on the internet. I agreed, but continued to think about it, and all of a sudden, this epistolary novel came to my mind in all its passionate evil power.

Choderlos de Laclos certa
...more
Michelle
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
By the second letter, the film "Cruel Intentions" bloomed in my mind. I never even bothered to learn where that movie was adapted from. Now, I'm quite happy to have come upon this book ( I just love the "Surprise Yourself" stack at my library). I was intimidated at first, but after a few pages, I was hooked. This is deliciously devious and entertaining! On the surface, reading "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" is no more difficult than following a very long Facebook conversation thread (even better if ...more
Manny
Letter 94. Viscomte de Rayner to the Goodreads Community

This morning, I thought of M. de Laclos's charming novel for the first time in years, when an interfering busybody saw fit to edit my Quiz question about it. I was forced to spend an hour checking the text, so that I could thoroughly refute her misconceptions about Cécile's role in the story, and I trust I shall hear no more from the vile creature. But, none the less, I am grateful to her, since she reminded me that I should read it in the
...more
Dolors
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Definitely the best epistolary book I have ever read and probably one of the best novels displaying the double morale in the eighteenth century Paris.
Monsieur de Laclos masters the style, creating two hero-villain characters whom, although monsters without scruples, one can't help to admire. They are playful, amusing, witty and skillful in the art of deception. They are also vain, prideful creatures who seek their own pleasure without caring for the outcome of their poor victims.
Marq
...more
Daniela
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yesterday, as I was finishing this book, I thought I would give it four stars. When I finished it I gave it five. Today, I believe it might be the best book I've read so far this year. It is chiselled in my mind. I keep telling everyone that they must read it. Like Baudelaire said, it is a book that burns only as ice burns. And it burns for a while.

It is a story of intrigue where two aristocrats share their adventures - by which I mean the seduction of virgins, the manipulation of ma
...more
Michael Finocchiaro
One of my all time favourite books, Les Liaisons dangereuses is a tour de force written entirely in letters. It is the only literature that nobleman Laclos every wrote but he hit a grand slam with this one. Intrigue, sex, betrayal - it is a gripping story told in the margins between the written word and the gaps between the letters. Hard to describe without spoiling the pleasure of potential readers, suffice it to say that the movie (as awesome as Uma and Close and Malkovich were in the 1988 fil ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jan 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Shelves: 1001-core, classics
When you rate a book, do you consider the introduction (written by a different person), appendices, blurbs and entries in Wikipedia? I mean do you consider the historical background of the story? the life story of the author? it's impact to whatever since its first publication?

Or you ignore all of them and just rate the story as if you do not know anything about those?

Two schools of thought. I know some people just read and then rate the story only. I know some who read not only the
...more
Marquise
Come back, my dear Vicomte, come back.



Thus starts this tale of deceit and corruption through seduction, with a summons from the Marquise de Merteuil to her confidante and former lover, the Vicomte de Valmont.



Unknown to Madame la Marquise, this seemingly innocuous petition will set the snowball in a downwards motion, because M. le Vicomte is at present visiting his aunt, where he’ll meet and become half-o
...more
Rowena
Oct 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most intriguing classics I’ve read in a long time. At first glance it didn’t seem to me as though a book that consists entirely of series of letters written between various people would be interesting, but this was the 18th Century, when letter-writing among the French aristocracy was obviously an art form so each letter is written in beautiful language with such detail and emotion, each with the unique tone of its author.

At the centre of this novel are the main ch
...more
Lady
Sep 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
I'm amazed, these two principal characters that are the very incarnations of malice have incredibly salient and correct anecdotes about love and the beauty of sex considering they use it to humiliate others. While the woman (Merteuil) is an expert in deciphering and deconstructing human emotions and its repercussions, Valmont is a virtuoso of reading human reactions even in the slightest form of subtle and heavily-attempted hidden gestures; which enables him to translate it to the emotions of hi ...more
Anne
May 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoys a good 18th century scandal ;)
Recommended to Anne by: Marquise
I love this book to distraction. Quite literally. It has almost exclusively occupied my every thought ever since I started it, and undoubtedly wins the Book That Has Affected Me The Most in 2015.

Simply put, it is wonderfully twisty, delightfully witty and shockingly scandalous. It will make you laugh, sigh, wonder, exclaim, and, if you're anything like me, hold you under its spell for a long time.

Set in 18th century France before the Revolution and written in epistolary form, Les Liaisons dangereuses is an epic tale
...more
Alex
The 18th century is a tough nut to crack. Its most famous books are boring. It's an explosively smutty era, but even most of the smut isn't that great. But there are a few weird gems that slip through the cracks: the furious Candide; the sensational Monk; and the masterpiece of smut Dangerous Liaisons.

Epistolaries were big back then, and LaClos makes better use of letters than anyone since Shakespeare; it'll take Wilkie Collins to match him. The letters are the plot, making this metafiction; their content and their incriminating existence shape an
...more
MJ Nicholls
Jun 10, 2012 marked it as dropped  ·  review of another edition
If I were the sort of boner who ran a creative writing night class I might level that grievous accusation at this Gallic favourite—how it “tells” everything and doesn’t “show.” And if you were a frightfully witty sort, you may reply: “Duh. It’s written in letters.” And such a Daria-strength comeback would be entirely appropriate: this is an epistolary novel where effusive aristocrats compose long-winded letters about their schemes and feelings and dire circumstances, with little for the reader to ...more
Edward
Chronology
Introduction
Further Reading
Translator's Note


--Dangerous Liaisons

Appendix 1: Additional Letters
Appendix 2: Selected Adaptations of 'Dangerous Liaisons'
Notes
Sketchbook
Jan 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Only a country like France, which takes sex seriously with a smile, as
Britain does snobbery with a snoot, could produce this ironic
novel. (Laclos withdrew following his unsettling classic of sexual manners, 1782). Valmont-Merteuil reign high on my list of literary favs. Overbred, overindulged, the ex-lovers become sexual conspirators after tossing other partners. Sex for them is an intrigue of shared espionage.

Urbane, amusing, they strike a cynical assault on society.
The
...more
Luís C.
Dangerous Liaisons (1782) is a novel presented in epistolary form, entirely composed of one hundred and seventy five letters. It should be noted that he shares this particularity with the novel Héloïse by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, another masterpiece of the French novel of the eighteenth century.
Libertine, expert in seduction, the Vicomte de Valmont tries to win the love of the resistance of President Tourvel, which sit in love. Only conquest can cure him of a humiliating feeling. The marquee
...more
Emma
Feb 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
What a deliciously wicked story.

This dramatisation from the cast of the Donmar production is worth listening to for Janet McTeer alone. Her Marquise de Merteuil was incredible. Sensual, scathing, scandalous. If you are new to Laclos, this is a great place to start. I read an English translation many years ago and loved it, but this version brought it to life for me. It has left me wanting to read the original, and i'll be purchasing it after finishing the review (yes, i'm THAT enthus
...more
Parthiban Sekar
An Excellent work on human malice. The protagonist "Marquise de Merteuil" can't be any more wretched and brilliant at the same time.

Marquise De Merteuil: When I came out into society I was 15. I already knew then that the role I was condemned to, namely to keep quiet and do what I was told, gave me the perfect opportunity to listen and observe. Not to what people told me, which naturally was of no interest to me, but to whatever it was they were trying to hide. I practiced detachment. I learned how to look che“Marquise
...more
Marc
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is one of the most intruiging early novels (end of the 18th C.). The construction of the story is utterly sublime, as an epistolary novel with letters going back and forth between the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont (both amoral, narcistic personalities), full of mirror effects and hidden parallels.

The originality of this work is that this is one of the first novels in history in which words and language are used in a very perverse way (it set the mark for thousa
...more
Leena
Jan 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I wonder, if I had read this book when I was 21 instead of 31, would I have saved myself a good deal of grief concerning relationships? This book masterfully exposes every kind of grief there is. But, I think that like the innocent characters in the book, I wouldn't have understood it at the time.

When attempting to navigate love, one always messes up somewhere. Some of us stomp around like... a yeti, lol. While others are deft and cruel. Toss both these sorts of people together into a restricti
...more
Gabrielle
A literary tour-de-force, this book is a magnificent, perverse story of manipulation, seduction, betrayal and deceit. Published a few years before the French Revolution, Laclos allegedly meant it as a slap to the face of the decadent aristocracy, their abuse of position and power, their immoral and depraved conduct and hypocrisy.

Told in a clever epistolary format, this is the story of an intrigue instigated by the bored Marquise de Merteuil; a former lover, the Comte de Gercourt is t
...more
Mikey
Mar 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: fiction
Aside from the fact that Les Liaisons Dangereuses has a tight, efficient plot and well-constructed characters, what's most impressive about it is how well it works as an actual epistolary novel. Instead of Clarissa writing for 18 hours a day, what we have hear are short (1-2 pages, sometimes less) letters, of the length that people might actually write to one another, and multiple correspondences, in order to keep the story fresh and told from multiple perspectives. In addition, the letters become part of the story ...more
Alex
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Do you secretly imagine plotting against people you despise? Would you like to read a book where you are conflicted about your own morals? Well, well, well. You are in luck my friend. Read the graphic novel Death Note! I am kidding.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses (which I have misspelled a few times) is about two malignant characters that are bored with their fashionable lives, and they begin to stir the pot for their own entertainment.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses is written entirely through letters, which
...more
Fede
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this epistolary novel is like having a panic attack in a mirror maze.
You feel trapped, lost in the logic of a game so wicked and twisted that no player is ever supposed to win more than he loses. A cruel chess game in which the pieces are the players themselves - mercilessly, cold-bloodedly moving each other.

Paris, last decades of the 'ancien régime' and its magnificent, triumphant amorality.
The Marquise de Merteuil is certainly not the kind of woman who cries over a lost lover. She i
...more
Philippe Malzieu
Oct 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"Fragonard amoureux" Exhibition at Luxembourg Museum Paris.

Everyone knows Fragonard and his gallant paintings. The exhibition is splendid. A firework of pleasure and sensuality. The force of Jean-Honore is that he never was vulgar. No pornography as we can see in others painter's work of this time. All is suggested, in particular with the pillows or thwarts. A remark of the conservative intrigued me. Starting from 1770, Jean-Honore gives up the libertinage as model for inspiration. H
...more
Justine
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
4.5 stars

This book has been on my TBR for 6 years!! 6 YEARS!!! shame *Game of Thrones style*

One of my best friends studied this book for her thesis last year, so I had to read this book eventually! And, closing it, I was a bit troubled.

First: I love epistolary novels, so I knew I would love the format for sure! I rarely read this genre now, but I still love it, this book confirmed it!

Then, I loved the first part, because I loved Merteuil and Valmont. They are witty, intelligent, s
...more
Catherine
Mar 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Having read this and seen two film versions, I have to say I'm disappointed by society's response to the Marquise de Marteuil's role in the events. She is vilified while the Vicomte de Valmont, who is just as guilty, is forgiven apparently because he confesses all just before his death following a duel. What makes the Marquise's guilt so great that she is shunned in society and eventually has to leave the country? She encouraged certain events but in the end did not cause them--that was for Valm ...more
Campbell
What a novel! Never have I come across one, as far as I can recall, that so precisely understands the workings of thought processes, what motivates people and demonstrates how, given that understanding, people can be cynically manipulated to fulfill the wishes of others.

Also the Vicomte de Valmont is a fantastic character whose ability to take revenge knows few, if any, equals (Edmond Dantes, perhaps).
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Pierre Ambroise François Choderlos de Laclos was a French novelist, official and army general, best known for writing the epistolary novel Les Liaisons dangereuses.

A unique case in French literature, he was for a long time considered to be as scandalous a writer as the Marquis de Sade or Nicolas-Edme Rétif. He was a military officer with no illusions about human relations, and an amate
...more
“When one woman strikes at the heart of another, she seldom misses, and the wound is invariably fatal.” 187 likes
“Truth to tell, the longer I live, the more I'm tempted to think that the only moderately worthwhile people in the world are you and I.” 87 likes
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