Sunday, April 18, 2010

Liaisons, oh my!

Last week, I finished reading Choderlos de Laclos' Les liaisons dangereuses (in translation, of course). And, though I couldn't help picturing Glenn Close and John Malkovich while reading—Keanu Reeves, luckily, did not appear on my mind's stage—I found the story much more delightfully nasty and amoral than even the movie was. With the translator/editor (ParmeĆ©), I found myself questioning whether the military officer and later Jacobin was really portraying a debauched aristocracy for our righteous indignation or for our envy, but mostly, I found myself thinking that for all the ways in which the epistolary format allows for an omnipotent narrator or, rather, the omnipotence of the reader—leaving aside how all the letters are to have been collected together—we should all be grateful that other structure of the novel quickly displaced this one. Reading hundreds of letters may have been imaginable in a much earlier age, but (sadly?) it is no longer to our taste. The repetition of salutations and closings alone is enough to drive one crazy.

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