The Divine Marquis deserves all by himself a section to himself, considering (if any) the huge amount of written material by him and on him (all more or less relevant to a thorough research).
I really don't have much to add to what I have already said elsewhere, if not that it is probably the most
enjoyable work by the Divine, rendered particularly delightful by that light touch of irony and black humor which
transverses every page. The reasons for my preference are however not limited to this aspect: it is also Sade's
most accomplished theatrical work, both for his keen sense of the scene and for his never confessed ability in
writing dialogues, as well as for the coreography of bodies interlacing, almost a pièce on theater itself. At
a first reading you may be strongly tempted to skip all the "philosophical" (i.e., boring) parts and enjoying merely
the most libidinous ones, but upon a second or third reading you will begin to enjoy them too; and maybe you will
even find them more erotically stimulating than the explicit scenes, thanks to the outrageous thoughts they
will put into your head (don't be alarmed if your "good conscience" resists in front of certain truly inconceivable
concepts; as the Divine will enter into your spirit, every obstacle will seem less unsurmountable and you'll be
surprised at your "broad views"!). Do not expect any blood and guts stuff here: save for the final scene (no
corpses, I guarantee you), everything happens within the bounds of civility and gallantry (they are all aristocrats,
after all). One small recommendation: after having read it, go to see Benoît Jacquot's film (see my review)!
Grove Press: Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings
Les 120 Journées de Sodom, ou l'école du libertinage
Rightly considered by sadians as the "Sadian Bible", it has troubled and fertilized many a writer's head: poets, narrators, artists (Apollinaire, Buñuel, Dalí, etc.). It is not a book meant to please, nor either with which you should agree; it is above all a book of narrative experimentation, a challenge to one's own limits, in order to surmount the borders of "acceptibility," of known reality. Much in the same way, it cannot be considered as a sort of "vice catalog," but rather as a "sampler of aesthetic choices" where Sade re-invents narrative language carrying it to the limits of metaphysics (meta-physics is quite appropriate, considering its total dissociation with the physical laws of nature). What I cannot understand is why moralists and well-thinking people of our times could get so flustered and up-in-arms about it: Quills's character Madeleine put it so well when she defended the reading of such works since they allowed to be "whorish" in her mind while keeping her body chaste. But, then again, what strikes me most about Les 120 Journées is the ironic touch which permeates every page: "Je suis donc plus heureux que vous, dit l'évêque, car voilà Mme votre femme qui vient de me faire le plus bel étron et le plus copieux..." ("I am then much luckier than you, said the bishop, since just now your lady wife has made me the prettiest and most abundant piece of shit...", trans.), where, as Barthes has already pointed out (Sade, Fourier, Loyola), the offensive term arrives just at the end of a sentence which imitates aulic prose. The nature of Sade's irony is precisely here, in this sudden twist of tone, in the abrupt inversion and violation of the linguistic code. A much more perverse (and subversive too, as all irony usually is) operation than the very acts he describes. Finally, it is a real shame that Sade could not complete his project.
Arrow Annotated Edition
Aline et Valcour, ou le roman philosophique
Epistulary novel according to the fashion of the century (started by Richardson whom Sade so much admired... all those critics who find the Marquis so boring and dull, how will they ever survive Pamela or Clarissa without tossing these volumes in the fire?), AV is a declaredly "philosophical" work and, together with Les Crimes de l'amour and La marquise de Gange (among others), is one of his acknowledged works. However, this doesn't in any way demean the author's malice at work with his most favorite theme, by use of a prettyfied and moralizing language to better stress the sharp contrast between high virtue and (divine) punishment. Sade is here at his most sadist, for by punishing virtuous characters he is in some way taking revenge on those moralistic people who kept him in confinement. Among his literary models, including those I have already mentioned, La nouvelle Eloîse by the very popular Rousseau, but also various examples of travel and exploration literature portraying the most exotic places (Bougainville's and Cook's accounts were present in Sade's personal library). This new genre is quite well represented in the large sections the author devotes to utopian societies (the platonic republic of the wise Zamé and Ben Mâacoro's kingdom of cruelty).
Historiettes, Projets et plans, Les Infortunes, Eugenie de Franval
The second of the fifteen-volume second edition published by J.-J. Pauvert in 1986, this book collects texts of the most varied nature, ranging from the shortest stories by a "troubador provençal" to the first draft of Justine, or actually Les infortunes de la vertu [ to be noted that this short novel that will later evolve into the humongous Nouvelle Justine, began from a simple phrase: Deux sœurs, l'une très libertine vit dans le bonheur, dans l'abondance et la prospérité, l'autre extrêmement sage tombe dans mille panneaux qui finissent enfin par entraîner sa perte., p. 230 ], passing through lively sketches and working plans to end up with Eugénie de Franval, of which I shall have more to say later à propos of Les Crimes de l'amour.
Historiettes, contes et fabliaux (monsieurlesix)
Cahiers personnels (notes pour Florbelle, Adelaide)
Imagine you could hide behind Sade's chair while he's at work, while he thinks and conceives his works, inside the walls of the Charenton Asylum. "You will have to make the following changes... be careful not to mix up characters... try to remove anything that...": notations which are addressed to himself; suggestions, even reproaches, criticisms, plans for new (unwritten) novels in countless volumes. What this book reveals is the workings behind the scene, Sade's methodology, his rigorous thinking as well as his untiring strength in the face of difficulties.
Voyage en Italie, Voyage en Hollande
Just like many of his predecessors, and particularly like the Abbé Richard, Sade too wanted to transfer on paper his descriptions and impressions during his long trip to Italy leaving us something like a "Guide Michelin". Do not expect to find here the typically Sadian verve and narrative energy that the Marquis used to put into his literary works. On the contrary, to those who love him most for that vehemence it may result rather dull and boring. However, behind that arid, detached prose there are interesting details, curious little annotations on places seen and visited; just like Titian's Venus (she who with one hand scrambles a rose while with the other she scrambles her own pubic hair), or the other Venus, in Sicily, which offers to the turist Sade that part of the body which has always fascinated him. The whole text is interspersed with considerations on morals and local costumes (a rather unusually moralizing Sade, but that doesn't really surprise you, does it?), on corruption, not to mention the several occasions in which he enters into open conflict with the poor Abbé. Such a shame we cannot avail ourselves of his advice on hotels and restaurants!
More than a novel it's a modern myth. Justine has by now become equivalent to "innocent, virtuous victim of the sexual perversions of the most powerful libertines," most celebrated heroin in movies, novels and genre comics. It is hard to establish with absolute certainty what was the real, underlying thesis: did Sade want to reaffirm the Christian belief that virtue will only be rewarded in the afterlife and that, therefore, it is only fair and just that arrogant, selfish powers should take advantage of her? or was he trying to elaborate on his pessimistic view of the way of the world (no, Congreve does not enter into this, although influenced by libertine thought)? or better, was he trying to materialize those phantoms which haunted him during his prison years in the Bastille ("Justine c'est moi")? I dare say that all these hypotheses are in part correct: there is militant atheism, strong and fierce anti-clericalism in sharp contrast with the aesthetic appreciation of violated nature and dissacrated values. Justine, throughout all her versions (three novels chinese-box style--with Sade it's always a matter of adding, never cutting), will continue to charm generations of readers, attracted to her or disgusted by the narrated events precisely for this inner conflict they engender. Don't mind those who tell you "it's boring": it's nothing but a very understandable refusal to penetrate the Sadian logic; all it takes is to shift your focus just a tiny bit and it would no longer seem so unanderstandable, so aloof, and pleasure would be served.
Grove: Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Other Writings
Les infortunes de la vertu (monsieurlesix)
Les infortunes de la vertu (foire aux textes)
Justine ou les Malheurs de la vertu (monsieurlesix)
La Nouvelle Justine ou les Malheurs de la vertu (monsieurlesix)
One among the few "acknowledged" works by Sade, Les Crimes de l'amour is a collection of short stories where themes dear to the Marquis emerge in subdued and harmless (?) form, manifesting itself only in the misfortunes of love: misunderstandings, intrigue, strange workings of fate. Sade here adopts a style which is closer to Marivaux, Prevost and Richardson (whom he greatly admires) counting on the special charm which the dramatic event exerts on the reader. As it will be the case with Les Plaisirs et les jours, which anticipates some themes close to Proust, so the "Crimes" presents, in an acceptable form and manner, most themes dear to Sade: incest (unwitting), suffering heroines, lascivious, powerful villains, and other such like which were already typical as well of the gothic genre (see also Gothic Literature). My two personal favorites are undoubtedly "La double epréuve," not so much for the plot, which admittedly lacks dramatic force, but for the air of pure divertissement which it embodies; and "Florville et Courval ou la fatalité," an almost odeipal tragedy. According to the original plan, Eugénie de Franval should have been published as the concluding novella of this anthology; however, most often than not, today it is published separately, and separately it should be judged (see below).
As an introduction to the anthology, Sade wrote his essay, "Idées sur le roman," a bona fide literary testament on the novel through history, passing through all his antecedents. Some of the names listed here have already been mentioned elsewhere: Richardson, Radcliffe, Prevost. The Marquis' opinions are always carved in stone, so to speak, but they do present a radical core: the main purpose of writing a novel is to portray the human heart (for which the writer has to develop a special, introspective knowledge) without worring of being "realistic" but rather aiming at the "vraisemblable," at being true-like, thus freeing the author's creative imagination. On a more polimical tone, the closing essay, "L'Auteur à Villeterque folliculaire," which is nothing but Sade's self-defense against accusations of being the author of Justine; a viril demonstration of the Marquis' poisonous energy when dealing with biting critics.
The other stories: "Juliette et Raunai ou la conspiration d'Amboise," "Miss Henriette Stralson ou les consequences de la disperation," "Faxelange ou les dangers de l'ambition," "Florville et Courval ou la fatalité," "Rodrigue ou la tour enchantée," "Lorenza et Antonio," "Ernestine," "Dorgeville ou le criminel par vertu," "La comtesse de Sancerre ou la rivale de sa fille."
Eugénie de Franval
A little jewel of gothic literature à la Sade: incest, pedophilia, murder, all held together by a tight plot, psychological introspections, and solid characters. However, in contrast with the gothic genre, there are no supernatural elements, but only the psychological tension which builds from the beginning, with a tint of impending doom. Yet, it is a mostly scandalous piece of writing, in spite of, or perhaps thanks to, its being non-pornographic. In fact, what is truly scandalous in this novella is not so much in the subject matter: a father who conceives his future daughter with a precise design in mind, i.e., making her his future lover, but in the way Sade portrays this relationship. Eugénie's upbringing is perfectly designed to isolate her from all kind of society making her totally dependent from her father who becomes in turn her friend and confidant, her companion, her tutor, and lastly, with a great ceremonial initiation, her lover. But Franval's plans go beyond incest, for in order to pursue his pleasure and his real love, he has to eliminate the only obstacle that is coming more and more in his way. He cunningly manages to set his daughter against her mother to a point where the child finally conceives murder. Setting aside the sense of impending doom, the sentiments that bind father and daughter acquire an increasingly tender tone; the relationship between them develops as though they are peers, both in intellect and in independence of thought. The ending, which is supposed to bring about the truly tragic consummation of such a scandalous and illicit relationship, comes as a bit of adjustment to current morality: Eugénie's last minute conversion and enlightenment seems too abrupt, as does her father's in front of the pious man of the Church.
La marquise de Gange
Perhaps the only story Sade hasn't invented from scratch. It is, in fact, not just a pose when the author warns us that the story is based on real facts, just as they can be desumed from actual documents found in the court archives of Gange. As the story goes, it bears all the marks of Sadian style, is of the same kind as it is to be found in numerless books this side of Christ, and still today it finds much space in movies and tv-sieries. A husband with solid reputation but no means, a wife with the financial means to subside his whims, a diabolical plot to murder the wife so as to inherit the entire property. The sadism here is all psychological: after a happy beginning, the wife slowly realizes in what dangerous situation she has placed herself, but when she comes to her full realization, it is far too late and the happy ending belongs to the villain. Of course, small consolation for the reader, the villain will be punished for his deeds, but this does no longer belong to the narrative. Not his best by far, but still very interesting and entertaining.
Sade's correspondence deserves a section onto itself, of biographic as well as literary interest. It is above all in his letters addressed to Milli Rousset that Sade's aesthetic and philosophic ideas take shape, whereas for his political ideas we find a few scattered pieces here and there in his correspondence with his notary Gaufridy, during the Revolution. With each one of his correspondents the author reveals a different face to his truth, without ever being untrue to himself, to his "manner of thinking," to his way of interacting with people. Particularly revealing are the hundreds of letters exchanged with his wife, "ma mie:" complicity, affection, play-act, characteristics which are not simply revealed in the Marquis' writing, but mostly in his wife's responses; two children confabulating and plotting against the gro-ups. Quite charming. The Marquise never refrained from any request, however wild, and acted as emissary, advocate, nourisher, ruffian, editor and critic. As an object of jealousy, she compliantly humored him in every whim; as an object of desire, she attracted little brushstrokes of "delicatesse," as in the malicious misunderstanding on his dirty linen. Subtlety, entusiasm, sarcasm, cynicism and always that touch of the scoundrel, so charming in him.
Btw, if you're interested in receiving the Marquis' letters from prison directly into your mailbox, you should visit Neil Schaeffer's Sade Page and subscribe to his weekly mailing list.
Oeuvres completes I (nrf)
One special note must be made for the various editions. Quite aside from the most famous and unretrievable 1960's Jean-Jacques Pauvert edition (Cercle du livre precieux, see a unique private offer of the complete set!), the most expensive among the ones currently in print is no doubt the elegant and prestigious Pléiade series (but if you happen to go to Paris, don't neglect to check out the Gilbert Joseph bookshops: real troves at amazing cut-down prices!). So far, three volumes have been published, enriched with abundant historical, literary, and cross-reference annotations as well as a preface by Michel Delon (who edits this series), Jean Deprun's essay "Sade Philosophe," besides the complete chronology of Sade's life. The first volume includes Aline et Valcour (with the original illustrations), Dialogue entre un prêtre et un moribond and Les cent vingt journées de Sodome ou l'école du libertinage; second volume: La Philosophie dans le boudoir and L'Histoire de Juliette; third volume: Les infortunes de la vertu, Justine, ou les malheurs de la vertu and La nouvelle Justine, ou les malheurs de la vertu.
Sentimentally more valuable are the two Jean-Jacques Pauvert editions (he's the one who busted his butt and paid with jail his efforts to re-publish Sade's works): one dated 1967, in black leather binding, and the other dated 1990-91, in attractive (but far from pocket-size) black and white volumes. Other worthy as well as affordable editions are currently published by Seuil, Folio Galimard, and Laffond. I would like to also to attract your attention to the Flammarion edition, not quite as expensive as Galimard-Nrf (see below). As for English versions, the best (and cheapest) edition of "Philosophy in the Bedroom" is by far the Grove Press "Selected Works", featuring besides the "Dialogue" and "Justine", as well as seven letters and a full chronology.
Ed. Flammarion (hd): Oeuvres Completes: 1 - Oeuvres Completes: 2 - Oeuvres Completes: 3
(page a bit slow to download...)
Guillaume Apollinaire: Les diables amoureaux
It is above all to him that we have to be thankful if we can easily read Sade today. He was certainly not the first reader of the Marquis, nor his earliest esteemer, but he's been his first outspoken defender and he has vigorously acted to make his works available and wide-spread. He has even managed to make him (the Marquis) the mascotte/symbol of the surrealist movement, contaminating every artist in different ways, from Breton to Buñuel, who in turn influenced other poets and artists, etc. Les Diables amoureaux is a good historical overview of erotic writers and poets, from "divine" to "divine," i.e., from Aretino to the Marquis de Sade, via Casanova, Laclos, Baffo, among others. In this anthology, Sade enjoys the place of honor, taking up the greater part of the book, with an earlier, still approximate biography (not totally devoid of "good will" mistakes and romantic interpretations). A fine book (such a shame I lost it...).
Raymond Jean: Un portrait de Sade
Yet another biography told through the fingers of one of his most fervent admirers, the writer Raymond Jean (perhaps better known to most of you as the author of La léctrice, which was made into a movie featuring Miou Miou). Instead of attempting to write an accurate and pedantic biography, Jean fancies to tell the story of this great (albeit peculiar) man through his literary works, almost as if his real life were nothing but a contextualization of his writing (a theme which will recur in Roland Barthes' book, see below). Of special interest to sadians.
Barthian power of analysis combined with a complex subject dense with meanings in a in-depth, exhaustive research of the most significant authors at the dawn of the contemporary era: Sade, Fourier, Loyola. Three thinkers who, in different ways and in different fields, have caused a revolution in our culture and in modern civilization. Loyola (utopia of God), within the Church and the Catholic movement, has founded a new and momentous ecclesiastical order based on strict self-analysis methods of rationalization and mortification, giving the Church its propaganda tool; Fourier (utopia of economy), in matters of social and work organization, in some ways the father of socialism; Sade (utopia of pleasure), in letters and thought, invented a new language carving it into the body politic of a decaying society (that sexual perversion which has been named after him does not always adhere to Sade's thoughts in terms of sexual behavior). As Foucault would put it, however, these three authors have acted in primis within the range of morals, whereas Barthes looks at them more from their purely textual side, where, it's worth reminding, the word "text" is meant in its strictest and widest sense: every aspect of life, any "story" can be subjected (!) to structural and semantic analyses. It is, in brief, the book that has made me love Sade (where by "Sade" we usually separate the "man-Sade" from the "author-Sade," two texts travelling on parallel planes and cross-cutting each other in a quasi-perpetual alternation).
Andrea Dworkin: Pornography
I could bore you to tears with the Gb of insults I should like to profer about this horrible, horrendous book, but I don't intend to do it in kindness to you. You may wonder then why I bother to include it in this "pretty" bibliography, considering that I think of it all the possible evil. There is one reason for it: together with Barthes' book, this too is responsible for having triggered the sadian spring. Let me explain. The thesis of this book is that pornography celebrates (and instigates to) violence and the degradation of women, and that therefore it is responsible for every and any evil act committed on women; and, since it is responsible, it should be outlawed (better if eliminated altogether) and the state should turn censor of any text which might even remotely be connected with pornography (in Dworkin's view, the term "pornography" gains an extremely wide latitude, considering that she includes in her "black list" such authors as E. Jong, G. Bataille, R. Barthes... one critic commented: "And why not also "The Song of Songs" from the Bible?"). If there's anything that's worth reading, a part from easy erotic stimulations--Dworkin thrives in retelling and describing in detail those stories she censors, succeeding, in spite of herself, in providing ample material for "solitary entertainment"--, it is in the contrast that arises between her spiteful-bitch attitude and the glory and charm of her victims (Sade included), martyred by aleatory analysis and fuzzy thinking: misfortunes of virtue. Once again, Sade is proven correct.
If you wish to see for youself how far Dworkin goes, you only have to swim through her ACLU Page, or read the book she co-authered with Catherine MacKinnon, Pornography and Civil Rights. For a review of her latest, apalling book, Scapegoat, you should read Julia Gracen's article (Salon.com).
VV.: Cahiers du Sud (Approches de Sade)
This interesting journal of provençal studies periodically dedicates one section to reflections and thoughts on the Marquis' works or life, insofar as it relates to local history. This issue features six essays, half of which very short. What immediately struck me was Pierre Klossowski's name (De l'opportunité a étudier l'œvre du Marquis de Sade where the author explains why Sade should be read mostly by religious people). To be noted as well Jean Tortel's article with which he tries to demonstrate the immense monotony of Sade's novels through a thorough examination (with great wealth of quotations) of the text of La Philosophie dans le boudoir.
Gilbert Lely: Vie du Marquis de Sade
An absolute must for all sadians. Authoritative, thorough biography widely accompanied by authentic texts, first- and second-hand accounts, comments, psychological annotations, ample quotations from Sade's correspondence, as well as literary and historical references. Even if you're not a passionate sadian, it makes for a very enjoyable reading, precisely for that touch of rocamboleque, picaresque, swashbuckling, social injustice and a few brushstrokes of suspence, just like an adventure novel. (in two volumes)
The original (norwegian) title says something more and different than its English translation, with obvious reference to a more famous valet, Leporello in Mozart's Don Giovanni. Latours Katalog is an unusual serial thriller interwoven through the holes in Sade's biography (who, for once, is not the villain!), thus giving it a colorful and tense setting. The author's imagination is so intense as to succeed in convincingly fitting into Sade's life something that absolutely never happened nor could ever have happened. The real Latour, as evidenced through Sade's letters and contemporary accounts, is quite different from Fobenius', but this doesn't really matter, for the novel runs pleasantly and credibly under one's very eyes with a fresh, immediate, lively style, alternating the theme of the serial killer with historical reconstruction. I think someone is already considering making a movie out of it.
Henri Fauville: La Coste: Sade en Provence
Nothing but the history of the Lacoste castle, where the Marquis resided between 1768 and 1777, when he was definitely arrested and taken to Vincennes. This is also the history of the various changes and alterations undergone by the bulding throughout the centuries: from austere fortress to boudoir of menus plaisirs, as Sade would have put it; from shelter for vaudois and huguenots to provincial residence of one of the most ancient families in Provence. Through a gallery of all its major past owners, the book concentrates, as it may be predicted, mostly on the period that most closely concerns our hero; what makes this book particularly slurpy for us sadians is the quantity of little domestic details that contribute to redimension and humanize this "sacred monster" at the close of illuminist thinking.
Roberto Guidotti et al.: Cinefiles - Sadistic and Sadeian Movies
The most complete guide on all movies on, about, around or in the smallest way connected to the Marquis and his works, even if the only connection is one simple, tiny reference to his name, or to his ideas, or for the totally arbitrary and apparently meaningless quote either in the film title or in the poster graphics. Of course, Justine (frequently renamed "de Sade") features as the most exploited heroine. Most predictably, all of Buñuel's and Jesse Franco's movies are here, but there are a few surprises: "serious" and middle-of-the-road movies where, for some mysterious reason, Sade makes his incongruous appearance and unexpected appearance. A great wealth of images from posters and stills. The only drawback of this book is that there doesn't seem to be any logic in which the list is ordered.
En savoir plus...
one of the best sites devoted to the Marquis de Sade is undoubtedly rocbo, besides the already mentioned desade.free.fr and the Belgian monsieurlesix.be. Roberto Guidotti's site offers a whole bunch of exhaustive bigliographies of books, movies, comics, etc.
Titles available at