Thursday, 2 January 2014


Man Ray - Portrait imaginaire de Sade, 1938

Extract from Maurice Lever - Sade: A Biography:

What went on behind the walls of La Coste during the winter of 1774-75 we know only from hearsay, but it is not difficult to imagine. If the marquis had yet to conceive his great Silling fantasy, that winter was at least a harbinger of things to come, a living first draft of the finished work. Inside the château roles were assigned in accordance with a strict hierarchy of service, a ritualization and codification of erotic function. In this theater of lust actors and spectators were one. At the pinnacle of the hierarchy were the lord and his wife, with the young staff arrayed below. All the servants were experienced, and all were aware of the master's whims and quick to gratify them. Just below the lord and lady stood the Swiss chambermaid Gothon Duffé, a 'callipygous' Protestant and the brood mare of the marquis's stable. Next came her lover, Carteron, known as La Jeunesse (Youth), who had abandoned his wife and children for Gothon's ass, said to be the most beautiful 'to have escaped from the Swiss mountains in more than a century.' Next came the mysterious Jean and then the frightening Saint-Louis, a foul-mouthed drunkard who 'tells masters and servants alike to go to the devil.' After these two came Nanon, the new recruit, who soon became Saint-Louis's protégée. Bringing up the rear were the young secretary and the five serving damsels. To their number we must add two other girls 'of an age and condition not to be sent for by their parents.' One was a dancer from Marseilles, Mademoiselle Du Plan, who lived in the château 'publicly and without incognito' with the title of governess. The other came from Montpellier and was called Rosette. She remained in Sade's service only two months before returning to her native city. Two or three cooks or kitchen maids along with a niece of Nanon's rounded out this amorous phalanstery. All told some twenty people remained shut up throughout the winter in this isolated château behind walls built recently on the marquis's orders, all of them subject to the master's authority and docile instruments of his desire.

   One marvels at this remarkable reconstitution and transformation of 'carceral space' for the sole purpose of protecting pleasure from outside attack, at this symbolic delineation of the territory of liberty within the confines of an inviolable prison.

Translated by Arthur Goldhammer

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