France buys the manuscript of 120 days of Sodom from the Marquis de Sade
A manuscript manuscript of 120 Days of Sodom, the notorious and controversial 18th-century novel by the Marquis de Sade, has been acquired by France for 4.55 million euros.
The work tells the story of the sexual orgies of four wealthy libertine men, aged 45 to 60, who rape, torture and murder their young victims in a remote castle in the Black Forest.
Sade’s work and his underlying philosophy of extremity and excess, while still highly controversial, have inspired many greats over the years, including painter Francisco Goya, poet Charles Baudelaire, and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
The origins of sadism
Until the twentieth century, Sade’s contribution to literature was largely overshadowed by the scandal of his writings, which inspired the word “sadism”. The focus then shifted to examining his philosophy.
The 120 Days of Sodom was banned in Britain in the 1950s, due to its sexually violent content, but has since become a penguin classic.
“This has deeply influenced many authors,” said the French Ministry of Culture after securing the manuscript. It will be kept at the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal in Paris.
The cost of the acquisition was borne by Emmanuel Boussard, former investment banker and co-founder of the Boussard & Gavaudan investment fund.
“He wanted to testify to his particular attachment to the Arsenal Library, of which his grandfather was curator between 1943 and 1964”, specifies the Ministry of Culture.
Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade, spent much of his life behind bars as a libertine persecuted by the Ancien Régime and by the regimes resulting from the French Revolution.
The 120 Days of Sodom (originally published as Les Cent Vingt Journées de Sodome) was written while he was imprisoned in the Bastille in 1785 and was never completed.
Measuring over 12 meters in length, the immaculately preserved scroll consists of 33 pages glued end to end and covered in barely legible handwriting due to its small size.
It was saved from the Bastille by a revolutionary, Arnoux de Saint-Maximin, who sold it to an aristocrat, the Marquis de Villeneuve-Trans.
The manuscript was then acquired by a German psychiatrist, who first authorized its publication in 1904.
It was then bought by a collector and then stolen by a publisher, who sold it to another collector. In 2014, it became the property of businessman Gérard Lhéritier, founder of the company Aristophil.
Following a fraud investigation and the liquidation of Aristophil, the French government classified the manuscript as a “national treasure” in 2017.
The manuscript will be presented at a conference in 2022, aimed at questioning Sade’s image, the reception of his work over the centuries and its interpretation today, the ministry said.