An upcoming sale of the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom has been cancelled after the French government denoted it a national treasure.
De Sade (1740-1814) was a well-heeled philosopher and unabashed pervert who can be largely credited with inventing erotic fiction via his breathless accounts of his sexual misadventures.
De Sade's manuscript is now officially a French national treasure
He wrote 120 Days of Sodom while locked up in the Bastille for abusing several servant girls.
The text relates the story of four noblemen who hole themselves up in a castle with a number of young victims, whom they sexually assault and murder in increasingly unpleasant and inventive ways.
It’s set down on one single 39 foot scroll and is still considered the most depraved work of literature ever published.
At the same time, it certainly goes some way to illuminating humanity’s darkest impulses – something no author up to that point had ever come close to.
The word “sadism”, to draw pleasure from the pain of others, is named for De Sade.
In 1955, the French government planned to destroy the scroll along with De Sade’s other books.
That it’s now to be placed among the greatest literary accomplishments in the French language shows just how much attitudes to the text have changed.
It’s unclear how much the government will be paying for the scroll, but it’s almost certain to be more than the $14.7m it sold for in 2014.
Please sign up to our free newsletter to receive exciting news about book and manuscript auctions.