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The Marquis de Sade
A Life

"...Mr. Schaeffer's book is a welcome addition to the literature. It is both sophisticated and hardheaded about Sade; it has a definitive quality to it."

--The New York Times

What's New:
Sade adopts positions in the extreme. He intends to shock, but there was a gentle and idealistic side to him. You see where you stand when you read Sade. He puts the bottom to literature, the worst that could be written, the worst that could be imagined. It's good to know the enemy; knowing the bottom line of human nature is a very good sign of health at the end of this violent century.

--Sade biographer Neil Schaeffer,
in an interview with the NY Times

About the Marquis de Sade, everyone knows too much, and too little. Even during his own time, the myth of Sade was growing, taking on a shape of its own, larger than his own life, so that he came to live not just behind the stone walls of the Bastille, but behind the equally impenetrable mask of false ideas other people put on him. In the end, he became a being not entirely of himself, but rather a kind of collaborative construction, a being of myth, a force in the consciousness of humanity, known by only one name: "Sade."

LaCoste

The Book
Based on a decade of research, The Marquis de Sade: A Life by Neil Schaeffer reveals the astonishingly non-sadistic Sade: his capacity for deep romantic love, his inexhaustible charm, his delusional paranoia. And through a dazzling reading of Sade's novels, including the notorious masterpiece 120 Days of Sodom, Schaeffer argues powerfully for Sade as one of the great literary imaginations of the eighteenth century.
 


Sade biographer Neil Schaeffer
author photo: Jerry Bauer

The Life and Times
Even stripped of exaggerations, Sade's real life was as dramatic and as tragic as a cautionary tale. Born to an ancient and noble house, he was married (against his wishes) to a middle-class heiress for money, caused scandals with prostitutes and with his sister-in-law, thus enraging his mother-in-law, who had him imprisoned under a lettre de cachet for 14 years until the Revolution freed him. Amphibian, protean, charming, the ex-marquis became a Revolutionary, miraculously escaping the guillotine during the Terror, only to be arrested later for publishing his erotic novels. He spent his final 12 years in the insane asylum at Charenton, where he caused another scandal by directing plays using inmates and professional actors. He died there in 1814, virtually in the arms of his teenage mistress.
 
The Prison Letters
prison window at vincennes "Either kill me or take me as I am, because I'll be damned if I ever change..."

Sade, from a letter to his wife, written in prison, November 1783

Sade was incarcerated for 14 years without trial before being freed by the French Revolution. In that time he wrote hundreds of letters to his wife. In researching The Marquis de Sade: A Life, Neil Schaeffer translated hundreds of letters, many of which have never before appeared in English. Read them here, or receive a brand new translation by email each week.
The Works
"He explored the bottom line of human nature, the worst imaginable; he is modern because any writer who explores the depths of human nature is modern. He has Norman Mailer's best attack style, so excessive and extreme, and Mailer is the best satirist since Twain. Sade adopts positions in the extreme. He intends to shock, but there was a gentle and idealistic side to him. You see where you stand when you read Sade."

--Sade biographer Neil Schaeffer,
in an interview with the NY Times

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