Sade : A Sudden Abyss
The literary adventure of D.A.F. (1740-1814) is unique and paradoxical. He was widely read in the nineteenth century, but his books disappeared almost completely from circulation in the century. Meanwhile the exegesis of Sade poured from the presses of the Western world in a flood of words in which the writer, the novelist, and the exceptional pet disappeared.
In France today, J. J. Pauvert, who considers Sade “the greatest French writer,” is publishing a new edition of the complete works with a new introduction by Annie Le Brun. Sade: A Sudden Abyss is the translation of this introduction, which shows Sade as the inventor of an entirely new language through which he fathoms human nature, desire, and relationships of power.
In this fresh and authoritative survey of Sade’s work as a whole, Le Brun frees it from such critics as Bataille, Blanchot, Klossowski, and Barthes (who see Sade’s language as a metaphor for history, society, or writing itself). She asks, Where is Sade himself in these texts? What exactly does Sade tell us? What is obscured when Sade’s writing is placed in a “universe of discourse” rather than understood as a manifestation of a life spent in eleven prisons over twenty-seven years? Like a powerful laser beam, her reflections cut through two centuries of intellectual hide-and-seek and let Sade for the first time be seen and read in his own light.
Annie Le Brun is a French poet and literary theorist. Her books include Lâchez tout, a critique of the French neofeminist movement; A distance; and Les chateaux de la subversion, a study of the Gothic tradition.