- Sade et ses lecteurs: une historiographie critique (xviiie–xxie siècle) par Dominic Marion
Dominic Marion’s monograph offers further indication of the burgeoning interest in the history of Sade’s reception, following as it does Éric Marty’s Pourquoi le xxe siècle a-t-il pris Sade au sérieux? (Paris: Seuil, 2011) and Michel Onfray’s La Passion de la méchanceté: sur un prétendu divin marquis (Paris: Autrement, 2014). Marion’s approach is idiosyncratic — he tells us, for example, ‘Je déménage souvent’ (p. 18) and repeatedly refers to his ‘intuition’ about Sade — but these personal touches add little, and at times get in the way: sketching a trajectory from the writing of the Cent vingt journées de Sodome to its inclusion in the Pléiade, he focuses on signs (‘le bûcher’) and metaphors (‘l’alchémie’) that shed little light on the manner of Sade’s canonization. The history of Sade’s reception is moreover delivered skittishly, flitting forwards and backwards in time, with one section zigzagging between Huysmans, Rétif de La Bretonne, the Rose Keller affair, the 1990s, and Rachilde. There are, however, interesting sections covering the way in which Sade became a myth in his own lifetime, identified both with the corruption of the Ancien Régime and with the excesses of revolutionary violence, and later converging and diverging with other mythologized figures such as Gilles de Rais and Don Juan. Hampered by the non-dit that veils the reception of Sadean fiction in the nineteenth century, Marion turns to various fictional intertexts from Stendhal’s Les Cenci (1837) to Rachilde’s La Marquise de Sade (1887), and usefully traces the transformations of the term ‘sadism’ throughout this period and beyond, paying attention to its use in a clinical context by Krafft-Ebing, and subsequently Freud. Next, predictably, come Apollinaire and the Surrealists who championed Sade and oversaw the publication of his works in the 1920s and 1930s. Of the eighty or so pages in this study covering the period 1890–1939, fifty are devoted to Bataille, and this inevitably leaves other stories untold; the section on Bataille is the strongest of the book, however, offering incisive readings of Histoire de l’œil (1928) and Le Bleu du ciel (1957). The [End Page 629] remaining chapters, which bring us to the present day, deal swiftly with the post-war period, when the relationship between Sade and fascism was much debated, and with the critical recuperation of Sade by Barthes and others in the 1960s, but find space for readings of various novels from Pauline Réage’s Histoire d’O (1954) to Sasha Grey’s The Juliette Society (2013). The result is that this is not quite the book its title suggests, since it shows more interest in fictional adaptations and appropriations than in the critical reception of Sade. Fortunately, such a study already exists, although it is oddly never mentioned in the course of this book: Françoise Laugaa-Traut’s invaluable Lectures de Sade (Paris: Colin, 1973). Although the narrowly French focus means there is no room for exploring some of Sade’s most interesting readers, such as Angela Carter or Andrea Dworkin, and there is surprisingly little engagement with post-1970s Sade scholarship, this remains a lively and provocative retelling of Sade’s journey from prison to the Pléiade.