Giton, 12 Four elderly women, chosen for their ugliness to stand in contrast to the children. Marie, 58, who had strangled all 14 of her children and one of whose buttocks was consumed by an abscess. Louison, 60, stunted, hunchbacked, blind in one eye and lame. Her anus, which she had never wiped in her whole life, resembled a volcano. All of her orifices stank.

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Pinterest The Marquis De Sade spent 32 years in prison or in mental hospitals. By the time Sade wrote The Days he had spent eight years in prison, first in Vincennes then the Bastille. Though the Surrealists would eventually cast him as a martyr to freedom, Sade was in prison not for his words but for his deeds.

He was a notorious libertine even by the standards of his age. He was arrested in February and remained in prison for the next 13 years. Sade began drafting his novel in earnest on 22 October , working from seven to 10 each evening over 37 consecutive days. The novel is not complete, however, as only the introduction and the first of its four parts are written in full. The remainder are very detailed summaries but no more. Though he had ample opportunity over the next four years, Sade never completed his first — and most extreme — novelistic enterprise.

Perhaps he realised it was unpublishable — a conclusion that censors and courts around the world would repeatedly endorse over the course of the 20th century. The Days tells the tale of four libertines — a duke, a bishop, a judge and a banker — who lock themselves away in a castle in the Black Forest with an entourage that includes two harems of teenage boys and girls specially abducted for the occasion. These are presented as long, numbered lists, interspersed with brief accounts of the scenes they inspire.

But the vast majority are simply too obscene and too violent to be quoted, as one nameless victim after another is subjected to increasingly elaborate and frenzied torments. These relentless lists read like a series of nightmarish diary entries, or a set of instructions for an apprentice torturer.

The Days is not a work that seduces its readers: it assaults them. Reading it is, thankfully perhaps, a unique experience. It is a significant cultural moment for a work that was for so long the preserve of a privileged few. Indeed, ever since Sade began work on his draft, The Days has been a hidden text — hidden first by its author and later by its subsequent owners. For much of the 20th century, even those who published the novel did their best to keep it away from the prying eyes of the authorities.

These early editions were published — pseudonymously or anonymously in some cases — in very small numbers for private and wealthy subscribers, and thus remained inaccessible to the general public.

Most of his sales, he insisted, had been to doctors and medical faculties — Sade was, in other words, in safe hands. Sade is now firmly established as part of the French literary canon.


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