Marquis de Sade – The 120 Days of Sodom
Apparently, the infamous Marquis wrote this story in 37 days while being imprisoned in the Bastille 1785. Furthermore, the 120 Days of Sodom was written on a 12-meter-long roll of paper smuggled into the prison. You can say what you want about its content and about the Marquis himself. You may call him a lunatic and dismiss his work as perverted nonsense but you cannot say that anyone reads this book without emotion. 15-20 pages into the plot all perversions I can think of has already been dealt with. That’s the kind of book this is. Once again, you might call it sick, but you will have an opinion about it. You will love it or hate it. There’s no in between!
Being a historical novel, I imagine there are several translations which might differ a bit. Not in content but in phrasing. I read the Swedish translation translated by Hans Johansson who is an authority figure on French literature of the period. That’s what I think anyway. I have several works of Marquis de Sade translated by him at least.
You might have seen Pier Paolo Pasolinis adaption for the screen: Saló or the 120 Days of Sodom. If you have, you probably either hate it or love it just like with the book. You might think that the movie is way over the top. But I promise. The film is NOTHING compared to the book. Where the film chickened out Marquis de Sade didn’t. He explores all the themes of sexual perversions, sodomy, pedophilia, violence and necrophilia too. Everything is in the pure essence of sadism.
At first, I thought the intention of the book was sexual arousal but I soon realized that the 120 Days of Sodom is more about ignoring the rules of society and perhaps even a way for Marquis de Sade to elevate himself over the mediocrity. A way for him to think his better than the other second-rate writer of his time. I don’t really know but that’s how I think about it.
The book itself is in four parts. Each more terrifying in violence and perversion than the last. Only the first part is really finished and the main ingredient is coprophilia. It’s very detailed and does not leave anything to the imagination. The abuse and humiliation is prominent of course. Sadism is named after Marquis de Sade after all. Compared to the later parts that are only outlined the first part is quite mild though. If the manuscript hasn’t disappeared I believe that these parts has been a really challenge to read. The outline is grim with physical punishments, mutilation and the most painful ways to die imaginable. On the other hand. Maybe these parts are so cruel just because that there aren’t any distractions. It’s just plain pain all the way trough.
I almost wished the book didn’t ends though. It’s easy to get caught up in Marquis de Sades imagination. What happens is always worse than what happened before. It might become tiresome in the end but the emotions of disgust I feel is hard to beat. This book really gets to me! Maybe it’s impossible to vary the theme indefinitely. It’s hard to keep track of the names and there is so much detail that I can’t keep track on who’s sodomizing who in the end. But I like the language and I like the provocation and think that the Marquis went down as an excellent writer in history