France acquires Sade’s “Sodom” manuscript for more than $ 5 million

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Paris (AFP)

The French state has acquired the original manuscript of “120 days of Sodom” from the Marquis de Sade for more than $ 5 million, safeguarding for the country a work declared a national treasure, the Ministry of Culture announced on Friday.

The eighteenth-century erotic masterpiece met a turbulent fate over the centuries, but the future of the original text now seems assured after a private benefactor intervened with the money.

The Ministry of Culture intervened in December 2017 to withdraw the sale of the manuscript from an auction, declaring it a national treasure and banning its export.

The ministry said in a statement that it had paid 4.55 million euros ($ 5.34 million) to acquire the work for France.

He hailed the text as a “monument” which has influenced many authors.

– ‘Tears of blood’ –

Before the intervention of the Ministry of Culture, the manuscript was to be sold at an auction of historical documents belonging to the French investment company Aristophil, closed in a scandal two years before, taking with it the money of the investors.

Sade wrote the controversial work about four wealthy libertines in search of sexual gratification on a scroll made of pieces of parchment he had smuggled into his cell in the Bastille prison.

When the Paris prison was stormed at the start of the French Revolution on July 14, 1789, the famous aristocrat was freed, but he was swept away by the crowds without his manuscript.

Sade believed it had been lost at the hands of looters and cried “tears of blood” over it, but the unfinished manuscript was preserved after being hidden by a revolutionary and then secretly purchased by an aristocrat, the Marquis de Villeneuve-Trans.

It only became known to the public after a German psychologist, Iwan Bloch, bought it and authorized its first publication in 1904.

Despite this, the book went unpublished for over a century and was banned in Britain until the 1950s.

Measuring 12 meters long, the manuscript itself is something unusual, consisting of 33 sheets stuck together in a roll.

The sum of its buyout by France was fully provided by Emmanuel Boussard, former investment banker and co-founder of the Boussard & Gavaudan investment fund, the ministry said.

It will be part of the collection of the Arsenal library in Paris, a branch of the National Library of France of the BNF.

French courts seized 130,000 historical documents that Aristophil bought for its investors in 2015 after police denounced the company as a huge “pyramid scheme”.

Aristophil claimed to have amassed the largest private collection of French literary and historical documents in the world.

A libertine persecuted by the Ancien Régime and after the French Revolution, the Marquis, by his full name Donatien Alphonse François de Sade (1740-1814), spent a good part of his life behind bars.

His contribution to literature was not truly recognized until the 20th century, when the scandal of his writing subsided in favor of an understanding of his ideas beyond the term “sadism” that bears his name.