2012年4月15日 星期日

"The 120 Days of Sodom and Other Stories" by the Marquis de Sade


"And now Durcet, whom the story had inflamed, like the old priest was moved to suck some asshole or other, but would not have a girl's.  He called for Hyacinthe, who of them all pleased him the most.  He placed the little chap, kissed his ass, frigged his prick and sucked it."

The Marquis de Sade wrote The 120 Days of Sodom in 1785, while he was imprisoned in the Bastille.  Many critics call it his masterpiece, though one wonders how any book that revolves almost exclusively around rape, torture, and milder forms of sexual perversion can be called a masterpiece.

I will probably come off sounding like a prude when I say that.  Nevertheless, as a work of fiction, and as a work of dramatic value, I found The 120 Days of Sodom to be one of the most boring things I have ever read.  It is little more than a catalog of debaucheries, whose orgiastic finale involves the brutal murders of several young children by psychopathic French aristocrats.

To make matters worse, it's a really long book, and I was only able to get through about half of it.  After finishing this first half, I realized that life is really, really short, and I would rather not spend another minute reading detailed descriptions of sodomy, incest, and whatever else the Marquis thought would shock readers of his time.

As a work of historical importance, The 120 Days of Sodom might be worth a glance.  But only a glance.  Reading any of the chapters at random would be enough.  It says a lot about the France of the Marquis's time, and anyone interested in the ongoing debates concerning the definition of the word pornography would do well to cultivate an acquaintance with this book.  As a story, however, it fails.

Included in this collection was another story, Florville and Courval, which I enjoyed quite a bit.  It shows a softer side of the Marquis, before he decided to follow his prick into infamy. 

Despite what many of his critics alleged, the Marquis was a good writer.  I just wish he had used his ingenuity in other ways.  Whereas something like Fanny Hill could be considered a passing amusement, and American Psycho could be assigned a greater meaning, no one is going to get much out of this novel.  It is, instead, something like a black hole, liable to pull readers deeper into their own fixations.

With the above said, I now consign the Marquis to my bookshelf, where The 120 Days of Sodom is likely to remain, unread, for some time.  The curious will of course seek out the novel, but for the less-than-curious the above quote is, perhaps, enough.

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