Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Les Liaisons Dangereuses, by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

Les Liaisons Dangereuses, by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

The decadence of the French aristocracy is legendary, and Les Liaisons Dangereuses is an excellent illustration of this. The two main characters take delight in destroying people and reputations using the timeless tool of seduction. There is no remorse or hesitation expressed by the villains; in fact, their behavior is justified in their minds, as in this defense of adultery: “Either you have a rival or you have not. If you have one, you must please, in order to be preferred to him; if you have not, you must still please, in order to avoid having one. In both cases the same conduct is to be observed: why, therefore, torment yourself?”

French is said to be the language of love, though, and that reputation is well-deserved if this book is a typical example. “It was when I saw you that I saw light; soon I understood that the charm of love sprang from the qualities of the soul; that they alone could cause its excess, and justify it. I felt, in short, that it was equally impossible for me not to love you, or to love any other than you.” Finding such a poetic depiction of love being issued by a debauched aristocrat brought home how duplicitous these characters truly are. The ending is a bit abrupt but the lesson is clear: immoral behavior is punished in this world and not the afterlife; or in a more colloquial way, what goes around comes around.

First Sentence:
You see, my dear friend, that I keep my word to you, and that bonnets and frills do not take up all my time; there will always be some left for you.

No comments:

Search This Blog