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Laclos, Choderlos de

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionBooks & Authors: Award-Winning Fiction (Ke-Ma)

Laclos, Choderlos de

(French, 1741–1803)

Laclos served in the army for twenty years without seeing battle, entered politics in 1788, and was imprisoned, then served as a general under Napoleon. His writings range from light verse to a treatise on the education of women. His novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1782) is written in letters, and concerns a plot hatched by a couple of aristocrats to engineer the seduction and disgrace of an innocent, famously religious young married woman. The pair are ex-lovers and are both dedicated to conquering as many hearts as possible; each also feels a degree of jealousy at the thought that the other might actually enjoy happiness in love with someone else. The letters are vivid and direct, and the twists of the plot tighten like a noose. The novel is every bit as engaging as Christopher Hampton's stage version, and the excellent film based on it, Dangerous Liaisons (1988).

Samuel Richardson (Clarissa).

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