Hans Bellmer - Untitled, 1960
Extract from Marquis de Sade - Juliette:
What’s this! are manners and morals then more important than religions? Depending absolutely upon the degree of latitude in which a country chances to be located, manners and morals are an arbitrary affair, and can be nothing else. Nature prohibits nothing; but laws are dreamt up by men, and these petty regulations pretend to impose certain restraints upon people; it’s all a question of the air’s temperature, of the richness or poverty of the soil in the district, of the climate, of the sort of men involved, these are the unconstant factors that go into making your manners and morals. And these limitative laws, these curbs and injunctions, aren’t in any sense sacred, in any way legitimate from the viewpoint of philosophy, whose clairvoyance penetrates error, dissipates myth, and to the wise man leaves nothing standing but the fundamental inspirations of Nature. Well, nothing is more immoral than Nature; never has she burdened us with interdictions or restraints, manners and morals have never been promulgated by her.
Oh, Juliette, you’re going to think me peremptory, somewhat the rebel and an enemy of yokes and handcuffs; but with uncompromising severity I am going to dismiss this equally absurd and childish obligation which enjoins us not to do unto others that which unto us we would not have done. It is the precise contrary Nature recommends, since Nature’s single precept is to enjoy oneself, at the expense of no matter whom. It may very possibly follow from the observance of this axiom that our pleasures disturb the felicity of others; will those pleasures be the less keen for that? This so-called “Law of Nature” with which fools wish to manacle us is thus just as fantastical as man-made laws and, trampling them all indiscriminately in the mud, we may be intimately persuaded that there is no wrong in doing anything we may well please. But at our leisure we shall return to these subjects; for the nonce, I flatter myself in the belief that my discussion of morality has been as convincing as my reflections upon religion. Let’s now put our theories into practice and, after having demonstrated to you that you can do everything without committing a crime, let’s commit a villainy or two to convince ourselves that everything can be done.”
Electrified by these discourses, I fling myself into my friend’s arms; in a thousand little ways I show gratitude for the care she is lavishing upon my education.
Translated by Austryn Wainhouse