Dangerous translations

Following a rapid introduction to the world of Les Liaisons Dangereuses and in particular to the characters of its two protagonists, Mme de Merteuil and Viscomte Valmont, we homed in on a key early scene, recounted through letters 4 and 5 in the novel. Having critiqued a contemporary translation of letter 5, students were encouraged first to conceive and then to conduct their own updated translation of the letter. Concept was key: the updates ranged around the world, and settings and characters took in all ages, nationalities, professions and backgrounds. Students started to see translation as a capacious art, able to encompass centuries of change and still make sense of classic texts today.