Les Liaisons dangereuses

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Les Liaisons dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) is a famous French epistolary novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, first published in 1782.

The book fascinates with its dark undertones. It is the story of the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, two rivals who use sex as a weapon to humiliate and degrade others, all the while enjoying their cruel games. It also depicts the decadence of the French aristocracy shortly before the French Revolution; thus it is seen as a work that exposes the perversions of the so-called Ancien Rgime.

The book is composed entirely of letters written by the various characters to each other. Especially the letters between Valmont and the Marquise set up the story, but those of other characters serve as illustrations and give the story its depth.

The novel has been translated into English many times, with Douglas Parmée's recent translation (Oxford: OUP, 1995) generally being the preferred version.


The plot

Vicomte de Valmont is determined to seduce the virtuous (and married) Madame de Tourvel, who is living with Madame de Rosemonde while M. Tourvel is traveling. At the same time, the Marquise de Merteuil is determined to corrupt the young Ccile de Volanges, who has only recently been brought out of a convent by her mother, Madame de Volanges, who wants to marry her off to a former lover of the Marquise. Instead, Ccile falls in love with the Chevalier Danceny, and Merteuil and Valmont pretend to want to help the secret lovers in order to use them in their schemes.

Valmont discovers, by blackmailing the maid of Madame de Tourvel, that Madame de Volanges wrote to de Tourvel about his bad reputation. Valmont revenges himself by helping the Marquise perverting Cecile. He also succeeds seducing Madame de Tourvel. The Marquise had promised Valmont to spent the night with him would he succeed with de Tourvel, but before fulfilling this promise she forces him to end his affair with de Tourvel and threatens his reputation. In the end it becomes clear that while Valmont played a cruel game with de Tourvel, the Marquise played a game with Valmont and forced him to break with de Tourvel, whom he had actually loved. Also the Marquise exposes to Danceny that Valmont seduced Cecile. Danceny and Valmont duel and Valmont dies, but not before he finds a way to destroy the reputation of the Marquise by getting the letters published that compose the book.

Plays and movies

The novel has been made into a play by Christopher Hampton. It has also been filmed various times, under many different names:

There have also been many television adaptations of the novel.

Critical views

Wayland Young notes that most critics have viewed the work as "…a sort of celebration, or at least a neutral statement, of libertinism… pernicious and damnable… Almost everyone who has written about it has noted how perfunctory are the wages of sin…" He argues, however, that "…the mere analysis of libertinism… carried out by a novelist with such a prodigious command of his medium… was enough to condemn it and play a large part in its destruction." (Young, 1966, 246)


  • Young, Wayland, Eros Denied: Sex in Western Society, New York:Grove, 1966; originally published 1964.da:Farlige forbindelser

de:Gefhrliche Liebschaften fr:Les Liaisons dangereuses ko:위험한 관계 pt:As Ligaes Perigosas zh:危險關係


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