Hence writers during the 1920s and 1930s made much of Sade’s remark in the section of the Philosophy headed “Yet Another Effort, Frenchmen, If You Would Become Republicans” :

“An already old and decayed nation which courageously casts off the yoke of its monarchical government in order to adopt a republican one, will only be maintained by many crimes; for it is criminal already, and if it were to pass from crime to virtue, that is to say, from a violent to a pacific, benign condition, it should fall into an inertia whose result would soon be its certain ruin.”

Sade became more than a pornographer or a dandy; he was a visionary whose works had prophesied the Apocalypse. In the Great War, “his conclusions [about human nature] were finally verified,” wrote Heine. They might, if readers had listened more carefully, even have prevented the tragedy brought about by Hitler, said Gilbert Lély. The critic René de Planhol called Sade a clairvoyant and, citing the famous remark from La Philosophie dans le boudoir I quoted earlier, claimed that he had “diagnosed the exact law of all revolutions.”

Carolyn J. Dean

THE SELF AND ITS PLEASURES

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