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on 16 March 2001
De Sade's opus and no surprise that his name would forever more be synonymous with vicious acts meted out purely for sexual gratification. A catalogue of sexual deviations, degenerating into ever-increasing cruelty as a group of captives (mainly children) are tormented and tortured to death.
An excellent translation. It is a surprisingly comic work which draws the reader in. It is also a subversive work, portraying the horrors as perpetrated by those with the unlimited resources to indulge their murderous tastes and the power or connections to avoid having to answer for them. Often they represent the law, as with the judge who always sentences everyone appearing before him to death, so that he can watch the execution from an overlooking apartment whilst fornicating at the same time.
Written in prison, it is incomplete. Only the first 30 days have been written out in full; the rest being in note form. It still makes for entertaining reading, although it is probably this incompleteness which makes the entire work disproportionately concerned with eating excrement (one of the earlier and milder sexual quirks).
Even in a world largely numbed to horror, some of this stuff is still unbelievable. Essential reading for anyone interested in the human psyche.
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See a bishop, a nobleman, a lawyer and a banker getting up to their antics, which I would call murderous, except that it`s fiction. In real life, these types get up to REAL murderous things - but they won`t be found here. Instead, many will probably buy and read it for the wrong reasons. I would issue a warning that this is not Sade`s best work by a long shot and will teach you nothing about Sade as a man and thinker; only about his bitterness in prison. It is important to remember, if you buy this book, that it was Sade`s revulsion for atrocity and hypocrisy which prompted him to write this Absurdist saga. Recommended, but NOT as an introduction for one who is ignorant of Sade! For better intros, carry on down the list of works and check out FRANCINE DU PLESSIX GRAY and MAURICE LEVER. Or read: THE MYSTIFIED MAGISTRATE, CRIMES OF LOVE, or GOTHIC TALES. (And better still: LETTERS FROM PRISON) Anthony Walker.
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on 16 December 2013
120 Days of Sodom is a book beyond criticism - good or bad. Early on in the work there's a warning that all honest pleasures to be had out of reading a book are completely banished - This is True! The Duc du Blangis who " has killed his mother, his sister, and three of his wives," retires with three other 'nobles' to a remote castle taking 42 unfortunate victims, both male and female with him. There beyond anyone's interference the four perpetrate vile sexual perversions on the victims leading to mutilation and murder. As an arrogant and impatient reader always ready to read or watch anything supposedly shocking or offensive, I started reading the novel inwardly demanding it be much more horrible or even different to anything I had experienced before - WELL - IT WAS - It was nearly too much for me sometimes, I read it slowly and carefully concentrating all the time, for I won't be reading it a second time, and it more than lived up to it's reputation though of course rather repetitive. No honest pleasure is to be had from the story, and I mean none, except occasionally humour, in its excesses - Lumpy s***s last stand - but it is unusual, if by any chance you've seen Pasolini's excellent film Salo which is based on Sade's novel don't be misled, good as the movie is it doesn't hint at the monstrousness of the Marquis's book. Strangely as the story approaches the end of its 120 days and the murders begin it seemed less revolting to me, perhaps because violent death is fairly normal in literature, the rest of the book is not normal, its completely different - so there it is - M P Crouch.
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on 2 August 2016
This was how de Sade himself described what is considered to be his literary masterpiece, and after reading it, it will not be difficult to agree with the statement. 120 Days is rotten to its very core, but at the same time, a necessary reminder of the wide, volatile, behavioural spectrum of the human species. If you are still curious about this tale of emotional filth and depravity but either can't bring yourself to read it or consider yourself to be more of a movie type of person, Salò does a pretty good job depicting the book, although naturally it doesn't delve as deep.

There are several reasons why people would consider reading 120 Days. Perhaps you are interested in knowing more about the so-called masterpiece of the one whose name is the very backbone of the term 'sadism'. Perhaps you intend to test your own literary limits. Or perhaps you simply want to know what all the fuss is about. Whatever the reasons for attempting to read it, do keep in mind that for better or worse, if read attentively, this book stays with you. It was written in less than 40 days under challenging circumstances during de Sade's imprisonment in the Bastille, and I believe part of his own anguishes of the time are well present in this novel. If you're still interested in de Sade's work but do not wish to take that interest this further, then something like Juliette - still hard to read and incredibly graphic, but a lot less uncompromising and more inclined to debate philosophical and metaphysical dilemmas - might be more to your liking.
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on 23 February 2014
I finished reading this book a few weeks ago and have toyed with writing a review since then, pondering the question, can you give a just review to an unfinished piece such as this?? This was to be the authors masterpiece work and I feel he would have been horrified that it was published in draft form, although would have thrived on the notoriety it gave him. My review and star rating, marked at 3 for "average" reflect this thinking.

It must be borne in mind before reading this that this is an unfinished work and that it is not an erotic novel. I read this book purely as a study of the Marquis de Sade, and his imagination was definitely fascinating.

Only the first part of this book is written in detail. Had the book been finished it would have no doubt been heavily edited, as, in my opinion it was already MANY pages too long. Anyway, as is, the book has so many characters that it is nearly impossible to form any find of emotion towards any of them, therefore, you don't really care what happens to them - would be comparable to watching shooting in a war zone on the evening news. The characters who are written in more detail, although of interest to the reader are thoroughly unlikeable.

The writer alludes to things and requests the readers patience as all will be revealed later in the book. It isn't, as he never got that far, this is frustrating and the reader is left trying to imagine the horrors. He writes about depravity and cruelty with wit and humour and therefore the book does not have a dark sinister tone which makes it easily readable. The use of language is very articulate and gives a feel that this book could have been written in very recent years.

Duclos was my favourite character in the book and it was solely on her narrations that I continued to read. The constant acts and references of coprophagia started to grate on me and were hugely off putting. I knew this would feature in the book but not to the extent and I was thinking please get over this and move on to something else..

Very, very little in this book is sexual and although the Marquis was clearly depraved to start with, it is obvious that he was really scraping the depths of depravity during the period he was confined whilst writing this manuscript. The horrors which he would have written in detail, had it been finished, are unimaginable.

This is a work about wealth, abuse of power and cruelty written by an author who was bored, frustrated and depraved. His sanity is questionable. Doubt anyone of sound mind could genuinely enjoy the content of this book, however, I really enjoyed the Marquis' style of writing, it makes easy reading. There are many criminal acts featured in this book, I would dread to think anyone would seek to draw any inspiration from it but it could be dangerous in the wrong hands...
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Perceiving De Sade as a pornogapher speaks volumes about the reviewer, rather than the book. If this is seen as porn or erotica then seek help. In the therapeutic field it is called projection. Likewise if you feel nothing after reading it, talk to someone. This book explores the limits of power, the need to feel something by inflicting pain, penetrating orifices, lacerating bodies and feeling the powerful effects of command in instilling humiliation.

The power mad participants derived from the higher echelons of French society; politician, bishop, financier and aristocrat; as De Sade himself, in pre-revolutionary France, embark on an orgy of penetration. The victims are primarily women and children procured for the occasion. The aim, to enact a series of recounted tales in an ever increasing violation of every shred of human dignity. The stories were banned for years because they were deemed to inflame passion. This speaks loudly about the previous moral guardians mindset, than the power of this book.

Perhaps the atrocities committed across the globe in the 20th C were the fault of the Marquis? Cited in the defence of every crazed maniac; Stalin, Hitler, Pot, the British regime in Kenya, Manson, fill in the missing blanks.Thankfully he cannot be blamed, his ban entailed his silence. Cited as a mentor for Ian Brady, his love of hacking up children can be traced to the lust for power, explored by De Sade. The Marquis investigates how madness is related to sex, food and obliteration. Ian is a coward. He should talk about his childhood difficulties rather than project onto the Marquis, providing society with an insight into his madness. Instead he treads the well worn path of moral cowardice. Singing to the hymn sheet of the moral majority, the blame rests on a two hundred year old book. This gave him the idea to torture children. Ian, there is more gross carnage in the Bible if read as a total sum. The Israelites hacked and slashed their way through history. Did not God ask Abraham to murder his son to prove his faith? No one blames the Bible for creating the seeds of death and destruction, a book overused for people for poor psychological health obsessives.

The weakness in 120 days is the absence of any exploration of the psychological impact of the violence on the victims. De Sade competely ignores the impact of the terror. The women and children are cyphers for the enacted butchery and carnage. There is no language of resistance, revenge, breakdown, self harm or suicide.

The strength is in the understanding of the power excesses of the protagonists. There is no remorse, no reflection only the need to continue the lust for power. Echoes of the Catholic Church scandals littering the 20th/21stC, the bachannals of power initiated in boarding schools, dancing/acting institutions, children's homes and anywhere else young people congregate. It details the systemic abuse of children in its opening sections and then intensifies into pulling bodies apart- the type of activity taking place during the Rape of Nanking. Kampuchea, the Final Solution, Rwanda or Bosnia/Croatia.

The expose of brute upper class power is catalogued relentlessly. De Sade obviously had inside knowledge, bludgeoning the reader systematically with the sexual nature of the command, the power to tear someone limb from limb and feel exhileration in the power to anhilate. Having total power and subjugating a person produces a thrill in itself, the moral authority to be a an avenging all powerful old testosterone god bestride a poor weakless submissive.

Poor people can join in with this thrill when placed within a system of command, the white "outsiders" operating the jails in Iraq. Far from being aberrant acts they are embedded in a system of sexualised control. Hands up anyone who has not been subject to institutional power and its effects?

First they tried to ignore him, then ban him, castigate him for all the evils of the world, turn his name into what he stood against. Now at last they are having to take him seriously, a philosopher of power. It is a shame 250 years later this book is still as relevant as ever. Rescued from the dungheap by the surrealists. They mixed De Sade, Freud and Marx to fashion new concepts. Freud has fallen into the mire, Marx creates nostalgia for those of a certain age, needing an injection of botox for his resurrection. De Sade is still in pristine condition glowing with a pristine light.

It is one of those books you either get straight away if you have an opened mind. Ideally after reading, place to one side and gently undertake some reflection.

Anyone reaching for "relief" needs to do a Brady psychological health test. Those who are bored need to get a needle and prick themselves.

There is no middle way, the book tests the polarities of humanity.
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on 21 October 2015
Absolutely horrified by reading this. Can't imagine what a sick individual Marquis de Sade was to think up such horrors and then feel the need to record them for others to see in future. I can't understand how anyone could enjoy it. Its taken me months to finish it because I simply couldn't bring myself to read it half the time, afraid of what horrors might next be detailed. As for those reviewers which have said the book was humorous in parts...please explain which parts? Surely not the parts detailing rape/torture/buggery/murder of children! I found nothing humorous or enjoyable about this book. It should have been burnt upon discovery!
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on 15 June 2014
The matter-of-fact way that characters talk about some of the sexual fetishes is quite amusing. This also contains my favourite quote ever. "Don't you know there are 1000 occasions when one does not want the 'a-hole' of a woman?" Spoken like a true gentleman by the Bishop. Truly evil men doing truly evil things.
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on 2 March 1999
De Sade paints a powerful picture of a deliberate and apparently regular descent into hell (or libertine heaven, depending on who you are in the book) by a selected cast of characters at an isolated chateau. All means of inflaming and fulfilling sexual appetite are explored, and then some more. Yes, this may be an allegory on power and corruption, but is equally an exploration of sexuality peppered with acts of free will when devoid of morality. Of course, such matters take some considerable toll on the participants, as the most chilling reckoning shows at the end of the book, where head counts are made of persons at the start and at the end of the sojourn.
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on 23 April 2014
Having glanced through reviews for this, one note that needs to be made is to those expecting 50 Shades. To be honest, anyone intending to enter this book with even the slightest comparison in mind will fail to get along with 120 Days. The best advice I can give, read the 4/5 star reviews, and if you are incapable of reading those and deciphering your own opinion, then leave this one be, or at least read more into the works of Sade online.

This book is not for the faint hearted or easily offended, as forewarned in the opening chapter.
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