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Sade: A Biography (Harvest Book) Paperback – July 15, 1994

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Product Details

  • Series: Harvest Book
  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (July 15, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 015600111X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156001113
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,033,195 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

PW selected this stylish biography as one of the best books of 1993.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Lever is the French editor of the Marquis de Sade's correspondence, and thus in a particularly good position to check and curb much of the mythical fervor that surrounds the writer everyone thinks he knows all about and almost no one does. By modern French surrealists and leftists, Sade has been championed as an archangel of revolution, of sexual revolt; by the general public, as evil and cruelty incarnate. The facts support both and neither, though Lever works upon the framework constructed most seminally by Gilbert Lely in the Fifties. Sade's noble Provencal family related to Petrarch; his feverish libertinage and real crimes of perversity; his first imprisonment (during which he wrote the first of his novels, The 120 Days of Sodom); his second imprisonment, during Robespierre's Terror; his authorial ambitions (not especially pure or demonic sometimes: Sade acknowledged the popular taste for ``spicy books'' when he was writing Justine); the two remarkable women who put up with him as wife, then companion; his rearrest and reimprisonment during the Napoleonic reaction to Jacobin excesses; the end of his days spent in the mental ``hospital'' at Charenton, where Sade ran the loony bin's semi- psychodrama theatricals. What Lever brings across, in a vigorous, unpedantic, well-translated style, is how much (and also how merely) a writer Sade would become--with the largeness and smallness that goes with it--after his aristocratic sexual frenzies burned themselves out early in life. Like many writers, Sade thought most about money. But nobleman that he was, he knew nothing about people; and Lever is right to mention (though the book is almost devoid of literary analysis) that Sade's greatest distinction as an imaginative writer was to create a self-contained repetitious rhythm--of impossible sexual acts that have no relation to what real people would do (or want to do)--the likes of which have never been repeated in prose. Demythologizing, level, and consistently fascinating. A must. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By johnnyk71 on May 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book was my introduction to the Marquis de Sade. I was expecting (and hoping for) a narrative portrait of the cruel beast so often alluded to in popular culture and vernacular speech, along with a laundry list of his misdeeds. What I got instead was a fascinating life history of a man who was at best a product of his own culture and upbringing, an avaricious, often petty noble, who took the libertinage of many of the members of the Ancien Regime to incredible lengths; at worst he was a captive of his own twisted fantasies, a soul who arguably lacked the even the most basic of built-in moral "stop signs" that most members of society both acknowledge and use as guidance. The most interesting aspect of this voluminous work was the thorough narration of the familial, political and administrative twists and turns that Sade endured during his life. The accurate and detailed accounting of the buildup to the French Revolution was enthralling and unexpected. In summary, if I had thought I was beginning a nearly 600-page history of societal and governmental France, I doubt I would have made it past the Prologue. Having just finished the book, though, I can say that this is one of the most satisfying and informative reads I have ever undertaken.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Charles Copeland on July 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
Sade has a host of apologists (Roland Bathes, Micheal Foucault, Camus, a lot of the surrealists), intellectuals who see in his porn a sexual liberation. The bio appears to be fair -- it pleads the guy was a good writer but a a bit of a jerk -- but, the thing is, he was more than a bit of a jerk. The writer treats Sade as more of a recalcitrant frat boy than the actual monster that he was. Not enough is made of the fact that if he pulled those stunts today that he did at La Coste, he'd be looking at some serious time. He was responsibile for the death of an infant. Lever doesn't condemn him enough. Andrea Dworkin was a soapbox loon, but i have to say her essay on Sade was more on the mark than books like this. Still, the epistolary fashion of the bio works well, and gives good insight to the times De Sade lived in and the penal system that he had to deal with. Overall a good read.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Ah, de Sade. Extremist by name, extreme by nature. And there's no doubt that he was extreme. This novel is noteworthy, not because it explains his works, or even attempts to explain the man, but because it details his life in context. It explains Sade, not as the villian that we would expect from his novels, but as a member of the arisocracy of France during the French Revolution. Despised by his contemporaries, this book discusses his life as a real man, and not as a mythical monster. It will be something of a disappointment for those eager for a smutty read, although many of the more sordid details of his exploits are discussed. Instead, it explains his life in the context of his time, and as a result says a lot more about the morals of his persecutors than it does of Sade himself. This is not a sympathetic novel. Rather it is a fascinating account of the life of one of history's blackest names, in one of history's blackest times. A wonderfully readable read.
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