The Marquis never doubted his own stature as a literary genius, and this week the French government backed him up. The Guardian reports that government officials declared the original manuscript a national treasure and banned its export from France, just as it was about to go up on the block at the Aguttes auction house. The manuscript was part of a cache of historic documents owned by the French company Aristophil, which had amassed a massive collection of French literary and historical manuscripts before police identified it as a pyramid scheme two years ago and arrested its owner, Gérard Lhéritier, who was known for selling rare books at stupendous profits.
As an example of the Marquis’ doctrine of absolute freedom (four libertines lock themselves in a castle to engage in radical acts of sexual experimentation and extreme cruelty), The 120 Days of Sodom, more than two centuries later, retains all its powers of shock, titillation, horror, and wit. Also declared a national treasure and pulled from the auction was André Breton’s “Surrealist Manifesto.” One imagines Breton would be pleased. A great admirer of the Marquis, he praised him effusively throughout his life, writing in the “Second Surrealist Manifesto” of the “impeccable integrity of Sade’s life and thought, and the heroic need that was his to create an order of things which was not …dependent on everything which had come before him.”
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