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Julian Meynell's Books

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Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Les Liaisons Dangereuses - Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, Douglas Parmée This is a very interesting novel. It is very French and very 18th century. It is told in Epistolary form which is far from my favorite form, but which is handled well here. It is basically the sole novel by the author, which means that it cannot be interpreted in a body of work, The interesting thing about the book is its ambiguities.

The main characters the Viscomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil are depraved libertines, who treat as a game the art of seduction but are completely callous as to the severe emotional and practical consequences of their actions. All the characters are finely drawn and realistic, but the novel is very neutral toward the main characters who in some ways are attractive. It reminds me of Paradise Lost in that it has similar ambiguities about whose side the author is on.

That all makes it an interesting read and it paints well a corrupt aristocracy that was about to be swept aside by the French revolution. However,, it is the ambiguities of the book which are both its great strength and great weakness. Not taking a stand means that it can only go so far. Also while the epistolary structure is pulled off and pulled off well, it is perhaps over long and the prose while good is not great. It is well worth reading, but certainly is famous in part for its notoriety as well as its quality.