Section 4, “Life of Sade” — Roland Barthes’ Short Biography of The Marquis de Sade

From Roland Barthes’ “Life of Sade,” a short biography of The Marquis de Sade. Translated from the French by Richard Miller.  Read the entire essay at Supervert. (or here over the next few days, parceled out over 22 sections)—

4. On Easter Sunday, 1768, at 9 A.M., on the Place des Victoires, accosting Rose Keller, a beggar (whom he was to whip several hours later in her house at Arcueil), the young Sade (twenty-eight years of age) was wearing a gray redingote, carrying a cane, a hunting knife — and a white muff. (Thus, at a time when the I.D. photograph was nonexistent, it is a paradox that the police report reveals the signifier in its description of the suspect’s clothing: such as this delicious white muff, an article obviously donned to satisfy the principle of tact which seems always to have presided over the Marquis’s sadistic activity — but not necessarily over that of sadists).

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