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PIERRE CHODERLOS DE LACLOS

1741-1803
French

"When one woman strikes at the heart of another, she seldom misses, and the wound is invariably fatal."

Pierre Ambroise François Choderlos de Laclos was born on 18 October 1741 in Amiens, France.

Laclos studied at the Royal Artillery School in La Fère. Upon graduating, he began a 25-year-long career in the Army. As a young lieutenant, he served briefly in a garrison at La Rochelle until the end of the Seven Years' War (1763) and later spent time in Strasbourg (1765-1769), Grenoble (1769-1775) and Besançon (1775-1776). Laclos’ stay in Grenoble is said to have been one of the happiest periods of his life and provided the inspiration for his only novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons, 1782). Laclos was promoted to captain in 1771 but found himself increasingly bored with military life and began to devote his free time to writing.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses was published by Durand Neveu  in 1782; the book was considered scandalous but was a widespread success, selling 1,000 copies in a month - an outstanding amount for the time. The novel was considered by some to be an attack on aristocratic society and morals under the Ancien Régime; Laclos’ military superiors were angered by the novel due to its political implications, and immediately ordered Laclos to return to his garrison in Brittany. The following year he was sent to La Rochelle to collaborate in the construction of the new arsenal and it was here that he met Marie-Soulange Duperré, whom he would marry in 1786.

Several years later, Laclos wrote a eulogy for Sébastien Le Prestre, Seigneur de Vauban, one of the most respected military leaders of his day. The eulogy attacked Vauban’s theories and military leadership and almost cost Laclos his military career. As punishment, Laclos was sent to the garrison at Metz. Between 1788 -1795, Laclos participated in the political intrigues surrounding the French Revolution. During much of this time Laclos was secretary to the duc d’Orléans, the Bourbon pretender to the French throne. Both were imprisoned during the Reign of Terror and the duc d’Orléans was guillotined. Laclos, however, was freed and went on to take up an important post with the new Government. In 1800, Napolean asked Laclos to return to the French Artillery as a general and he was assigned to a post in Italy. Laclos died in the southern port of Taranto on 5 September 1803.

In 1985 Les Liaisons Dangereuses was adapted into a stage play for the Royal Shakespeare Company by the English playright Christopher Hampton. Its success led to the to the film Dangerous Liaisons in 1988, directed by Stephen Frears and starring John Malkovich, Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer and Uma Thurman.

TITLES BY PIERRE CHODERLOS DE LACLOS

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