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Les Liaisons dangereuses (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – June 15, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


The Oxford World's Classic edition offers students an excellent introduction to this classic text and also important notes and chronologies. Dr. Paraic Finnerty, University of Portsmouth.

About the Author

Douglas Parmée is Retired Fellow of Queen's College, Cambridge. He is the translator of Nana, Attack on the Mill (Zola) and A Sentimental Journey (Flaubert) for World's Classics. David Coward is Professor of French at the University of Leeds. He is the translator and editor of Maupassant, de Sade, and Dumas in World's Classics.

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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reissue edition (June 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199536481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199536481
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 1.3 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Choderlos de Laclos' epistolary novel has been made into at least three film versions, but none of them come nearly up to the real thing. Laclos' story of evil and depravity, starring a pair of jaded aristocrats so satanic we wonder if they have a human bone in their bodies, is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, novels of the 18th century. In a nutshell, it revolves around the cynical plot to seduce and destroy the reputation of a young girl fresh out of her convent, which they plan and achieve with the icy calm and cynical detachment of a pair of mathematicians solving a calculus problem.

The anti-hero and anti-heroine of this book, the Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquis de Merteuil, fascinate and repel us at once by their sheer wickedness. Valmont is a depraved Casanova, lay-em-and-leave-em, who has lost count of all the broken hearts and destroyed characters he has left in his wake. The Marquise de Merteuil, married and widowed too young, has combined shrewd intelligence with appalling powers of deception to engage a string of lovers whom she uses and casts off at random. Somehow these two find each other and form an unholy partnership. When the book opens, their affair is already spent, but they have remained friends; and the Marquise is infuriated when she learns she is about to be dumped by her current lover, a rich aristocrat named Gercourt, who is about to marry Cecile de Volanges, the most naive teenager who ever emerged from the protective cocoon of convent education. Her main attraction, for him, is her virginity, and it is this the Marquise wants Valmont to do away with so that Gercourt will find out on his wedding night that he didn't get the innocent virgin he was expecting, but an already corrupted young woman, and will become the laughing stock of Paris.
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Format: Paperback
I purchased the Oxford Classic edition of Les Liasons, translated by Douglas Parmee, and much to my chagrin, found the text to be riddled with poor writing and literary anachronisms.

Parmee may be accurately transliterating the French original; I of course cannot read it. But the book he has produced borders on the unreadable. Cecile, an aristocratic French girl of 15, speaks like a besotted 60-year old English gentleman. "Fortunately Mummy's feeling much better today and Madame de Marteuil is coming with the Chevalier Danceny and somebody else but she never comes until late and when you're all alone for such a long time, it gets jolly boring." (pg. 32) Yes, you read that right, "jolly boring." In Parmee's translation, Cecile uses "jolly" quite often, but somehow I cannot imagine a beautiful if naive French girl ever saying "jolly" anything.

Also gone is the tense sophistication of the Vicomte and the Marquise's dialogs in the movie--in its stead it seems that Parmee has elected to give them the voices of two American High School students, void of all intelligence, charm and wit, leaving them with just enough arrogant cunning to move the plot. Throughout all the letters, there are a great deal of run-on sentences which require a great deal of effort to understand, a characteristic of bad writing.

I've read a few pages of the Lièvre translation and can plainly see that it is much improved. I recommend you purchase that version and leave this one well alone, as I plan to do.
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Format: Paperback
When I read Choderlos de Laclos' 1782 novel, "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" (which retains its French title in the 1961 English translation by P W K Stone), I found myself amazed and thrilled by its absolute excellence of execution. Its energy and spirit, and the seductive and machiavellian - perhaps even diabolical - undertones which whisper throughout the work, urge the reader ever onwards in the best page-turning tradition. It is possibly not for nothing that the book itself was eventually decreed 'dangerous' by French officials a full 42 years after it first appeared, long after it might have been expected to have lost its ability to shock. Even if you have seen the films "Dangerous Liaisons" (dir. Steven Frears) or "Valmont" (dir. Milos Forman) based on the book - and whether or not you liked them - this is an outstandingly good novel which is beautifully served by the precise and graceful prose of its translator, whose subtle range of diction manages to convey the tones and tempers of the characters most convincingly. The written story's chief virtues - a compelling narrative drive, and a skill in characterisation which permit some superbly-observed insights - easily withstand comparison with the screen versions; even today, when we are so fully exposed to the diverse secrets of the psychiatrist's confessional and the details of all the world's vicissitudes and miseries, it would be hard to improve on their portrayal here in print.
The book succeeds so well for many reasons.
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