Published in 1782, just years before the French Revolution, Les Liaisons Dangereuses is a disturbing and ultimately damning portrayal of a decadent society. At its centre are two aristocrats, former lovers, who embark on a sophisticated game of seduction and manipulation to bring amusement to their jaded existences. While the Marquise de Merteuil challenges the Vicomte de Valmont to seduce an innocent convent girl, the Vicomte is also occupied with the conquest of a virtuous married woman. But as their intrigues become more duplicitous and they find their human pawns responding in ways they could not have predicted, the consequences prove to be more serious, and deadly, than Merteuil and Valmont could have guessed.
Choderlos de Laclos was born in 1741, at Amiens. He entered the army at the age of 18 and reached the rank of capitaine-commandant without seeing battle. In 1779 he was sent to the island of Aix, where Dangeruous Liaisons was written. Helen Constantine has translated Theophile Gautier's Mademoiselle de Maupin for Penguin Classics which will be published in 2004 with an introduction by Patricia Duncker. And with David Constantine, she has translated a volume of Henri Michaux's poetry, Spaced and Displaced (Bloodaxe). She lives in Oxford.