Disclaimer: This article is not safe for work. Or, you know, general wellbeing. We are, after all, discussing “the most impure tale that has ever been told since our world began.”
I’m going to let you in on a secret: I have a little thing for the Marquis de Sade.
Now, don’t take that the wrong way. I’m not into sadism, which got it’s name from the Marquis. I mean, props to you if you dig the whole pain/humiliation thing (and if you have a safe word!), but that just doesn’t do it for me. The reason I like the Marquis is because his work is so shocking. Sure, it’s decently written. Sure, it’s “transgressive,” whatever that means. But reading the Marquis de Sade is like watching “The Red Wedding”: you think everything’s just fine and dandy until BAM. Everything goes loco. I always find myself strangely satisfied after reading the Marquis, just like I found myself strangely satisfied after watching “The Red Wedding.” I find it absolutely fascinating. Or, you know, maybe I’m just suppressing things.
A couple of weeks ago my mother sent me an article from The Guardian. I don’t remember ever telling my mother about my soft spot for de Sade, so I guess she just thought that I needed a little sadism to brighten my day. I don’t know. Anyway, the article covered the recent sale of the original 1785 Marquis de Sade scroll of 120 Days of Sodom for €7 million to a French museum owner, who has even offered to hand it over to the Bibliothèque nationale in five years. This story is perfectly timed, as the 200th anniversary of the Marquis de Sade’s death is later this year.
But why should we care? What makes this 12-metre-long/11.5-centimetre-wide (parchment?) scroll so special is that the Marquis wrote it when he was imprisoned (for blasphemny, sodomy, and non-lethal poisoning) in the Bastille, in just 37 days. After the Storming of the Bastille, the Marquis believed that the scroll has been lost forever, but it was later found hidden in his old cell, untouched – or actively avoided – by looters. Although after the Marquis died in 1814 his son ordered that all his unpublished manuscripts be burned, the 120 Days scroll managed to escape this fiery fate and thus remains with us today If you want to know more about the custodial history of the scroll, this website has a super-condensed rundown.
We should be so grateful that this gem was spared. Even though the scroll is written in such small script that one needs a magnifying glass to read it comfortably, some passages scream out from the page:
She assured us that all his joy consisted in eating expelled ovulations and in lapping up miscarriages; he would be notified whenever a girl found herself in that case, he would rush to the house and swallow the embryo, half swooning with satisfaction.
Think what you want, but quite a few people are fighting to classify this scroll as a “national treasure” of France.
Maybe 200 years from now Kim Kardashian’s sex tape will be given “national treasure” status too.