The Misfortunes of Virtue and Other Early Tales

The Misfortunes of Virtue and Other Early Tales

The Misfortunes of Virtue and Other Early Tales

The Misfortunes of Virtue and Other Early Tales

Synopsis

THE MARQUIS DE SADE THE MISFORTUNES OF VIRTUE AND OTHER EARLY TALES Translated with an Introduction and Notes by David Coward In the bleak, claustrophobic universe of the Marquis de Sade, there is no God, no morality, no human affection, and no hope. Power is given to the strong and the strong are murderers, torturers, and tyrants. No quarter is given: compassion is the virtue of the weak. Yet Sade was a man of savage intelligence who carried the philosophy of the French Enlightenment to its logical extreme and for many he is the Great Libertarian. The Victorians considered him 'Divine'; the Surrealists recognized him as a founding father, and he is a key figure in the history of modernism and post-modernism. With Freud and Marx, Sade has been one of the crucial shaping influences on the twentieth century, and reactions to him continue to be extreme. But he has always been more talked about than read. This selection of his early writings, some making their first appearance in English in this new translation by David Coward, reveals the full range of Sade's sobering moods and considerable talents. * INTRODUCTION * BIBLIOGRAPHY * CHRONOLOGY * EXPLANATORY NOTES.

Excerpt

Who or what is Sade? Not a man, for biographers have always found him an elusive subject. Nor a philosopher: though his ideas have an antiquarian interest they have long since been superseded and no longer bear the weight of the structures he placed upon them. Is Sade a part of literature or the property of science, social psychology, and psychoanalysis? He himself is not a satisfactory case study (there are always certain difficulties in psychoanalysing the dead), though his catalogue of psychopathological impulses is without equal. Nor is Sade a body of work, for, like Freud and Marx, the Great Unreadable is also the Great Unread. Sade is a myth, a convenient vessel from which extremists have always drunk. Anti-conformists instinctively recognize him as an ancestral folk hero, the ultimate apostle of freedom who exposed the hypocrisy in which all societies are rooted: he dared think the unthinkable, imagine the unimaginable, and write what should not be written. To the defenders of established values and social structures, he is the eternal bogeyman, the embodiment of gloating cruelty, the vilest obscenity, and the threat of anarchy. Sade, the would-be liberator of the beast in man, raises in extreme form questions which confront all free societies which strive to balance the rights of individuals with the good of all. Revered by some and reviled by most, Sade makes a fearsome case for the total emancipation of the individual from the bonds which tie citizens to each other and to the state. Unlike most pornographers, who titillate for money, he rooted his uncompromising brand of anarchical liberation in philosophical principles and threw down a coherent challenge which no mature society can afford to ignore. We have still to answer that challenge.

The terms 'sadism' and 'sadistic' have long been psychoanalytical shorthand and a boon to blurb-writers.

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