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By Sam Zanahar (2004)
The following article quotes first the email of a reader and then my reply.
My personal opinion of de Sade is rather negative.
1. Mainly, I think he is terrible as a writer. I read versions in Russian and in English. Stylistics is amateurish; the text lacks simplicity and often is boring. My educational background is in foreign languages and literature, so I have read a lot in the past, I have what to compare him to.
2. I also have a problem with excessive violence. It is absolutely not arousing to me. Violence (or S&M) should only be acceptable when it is pleasurable for both partners. I hardly consider torture pleasurable.
In life I have a very strong character and would not allow anybody to dominate me, in sex I prefer to be dominated (if I feel secure of course). I do like a bit of S&M, but only a bit, because I don't like pain. More about it later.
3. Philosophy of De Sade, I agree, should be noticed. But it will never be considered anything serious as long as the Church has any standing in the society. His philosophy, at the time it was created, I believe was not created as a philosophy at all, but with the only purpose of agonizing the Church. Some of the things he says have no philosophical value; they are simple insults on anything important to the religion. Please don't think I defend the Church. I have no feelings about it at all, but what I have mentioned diminishes the value of his philosophy (or at least I think so).
4. And finally, description of his sex scenes is hardly note-worthy. It is more elevated in style than a porn magazine (no wonder, they were written centuries ago), but again the style and the language leave much to be desired.
So... personally, when I need something to arouse my senses, a porno story does the job quicker than De Sade; and for enjoyment of reading, his works don't stand a chance to Mopassan, for example.
Well, that's it about De Sade. Any comments?
I credit the Marquis de Sade with one achievement: that he recognized the primacy of sex.
The only meaningful activity a modern person can engage in, is to pursue sexual satisfaction.
It doesn't need as many words as Marquis de Sade puts up. What he attempts is to prove that his dogma remains true in even the most extreme of all settings. If, indeed, it were that an individual derives sexual pleasure only in torturing or killing others, than, from the standpoint of this individual, it is in tune with his biological setting to kill and to torture.
All philosophical systems are built on axioms held as self-evident by its disciples. That we as individuals populate this planet only for an insignificant moment in time, and that there is no external purpose for our lives, and that our biologically or genetically set purpose can only be the pursuit of sexual satisfaction... all of this is such an axiom.
It doesn't become more or less true by applying it to extreme situations and by repeating over and over again that yes, even in this or that situation, it is also true (which is precisely what De Sade attempts to do).
De Sade's work is a pre-Darwin biological philosophy, and as such it is significant.
And while it is true that he rides his point until it becomes boring, it is also true that he remains the earliest and most radical proponent of what, in its basics, is a sensible philosophy.
I do not judge writing so much by the beauty of its sentences but by the originality, and truthfulness, of its thought. I believe that it is not the primary work of a writer to construct fine verbal structures, but to observe and contemplate what he is to write about. Form is no substitute for content.
Therefore, I am not really interested in whether his style is amateurish or professional.
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