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120 Days of Sodom
120 Days of Sodom
by Georges Bataille
Edition: Paperback

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A translation for people who don't actually want to read Sade, 11 Aug 2009
This review is from: 120 Days of Sodom (Paperback)
From the translator's note: "In making this new translation, the aim was to present the book in something more resembling a completed state. With some minimal editing and restructuring, and by wherever possible correcting mistakes and filling in important gaps - mainly by following Sade's working notes and later reflections, but occasionally by extrapolating from the existing text - it is hoped that this monumental masterwork, one of the cornerstones of modern literature, has now been restored to a version more appropriate for a 21st century readership."

I will leave it up to you to decide whether this is the kind of translation that you want to pay money for, but I would rather not be presented with a book that has been "restructured", "corrected", and "filled in", in order to make it more "appropriate" for my reading. Some of these points may be valid considering that Sade lost the manuscript, but as there are no notes anywhere in the book to say where the editorial corrections and extrapolations have been introduced, it is literally impossible to say what it is that you are reading: Take any randomly chosen sentence and ask yourself, is this from Sade's text or is it the translator's corrected version?

Nor is any information given about the nature of Sade's supposed "working notes and later reflections", where have these come from? Although Sade wrote the manuscript quickly he had been preparing it for some time and he had a further three and a half years to check it before it was finally lost to him, so the need to correct mistakes and fill in gaps seems unwarranted, especially as it has not occurred to any other editor, English or French, to take on such a responsibility. Furthermore, checking the text against the French reveals that it has hardly undergone "minimal editing and restructuring", as the crucial Introduction has been reduced by half and completely reorganised, removing the extensive background details about the characters and their agreements prior to establishing their retreat.

Contrary to the publisher's blurb, this version in no way supersedes the earlier edition and is very far from being "uncensored". Simply translating "décharge" as "cock juice" does not make the text more accurate, as décharge just means "discharge", and if that is what Sade wrote why replace his terms with something that only sounds adolescent? Considering that "Philosophy in the Boudoir" is now available as a Penguin Classic, this kind of sloppiness in relation to Sade's writings is in no way acceptable.

It seems as though Solar Books have decided that they want a more reader-friendly version to market, one that is less challenging and more streamlined, easier to consume, which is of course hardly what Sade would have wanted.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 3, 2012 10:34 AM BST


The Attic Pretenders
The Attic Pretenders
by Ernst Kreuder
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Celan's favourite novel, apparently, 15 May 2009
This review is from: The Attic Pretenders (Hardcover)
This was the first German bestseller after the war, and went on to become the first German novel translated into English after the war. It was part of a trend in German postwar literature that Sebald criticised for its alleged "escapism", but as this novel makes clear, escape is neither as feasible nor as positive as might be suggested.

It starts out of nothing with the narrator meeting up with some old friends, who have formed a secretive society in the abandoned attics of disused buildings where they while away the hours discussing Art and dreaming of another life. There is a lightness to this reminiscent of Kafka's early writings, but the everpresent but never mentioned postwar environment undercuts this lightness with an intangible sense of pain and loss. Later parts move into territory more familiar from Gombrowicz's novels as the suspension of reality becomes more engrained and the characters become trapped within their attempts to escape, or vice versa, it's difficult to say.

Not a brilliant piece of work, as it veers too close to whimsy on occasion, but it nevertheless has a quite disarming sense of the pain and madness involved in the attempt to think, however futilely, of escape. (The title is incorrect: the German version simply translates as "The Attic Society".)


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