Wherever He Goes, He Provokes the Terrified Dismay of the Guardians of Order

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)—

7. The Lady President of Montreuil was objectively responsible for her son-in-law’s persecutions during the entire first years of his life (perhaps she loved him? One day, someone told the Marquise that the Lady President “loved M. de Sade to distraction”). The impression we have of her character, however, is one of continual fear: fear of scandal, of “difficulties.” Sade seems to have been a triumphant, troublesome victim; like a spoiled child, he is continually “teasing” (teasing is a sadistic passion) his respectable and conformist relations; wherever he goes, he provokes the terrified dismay of the guardians of order: everyone responsible for his confinement at the fort of Miolans (the King of Sardinia, the minister, the ambassador, the governor) is obsessed by the possibility of his escape — which does not fail to occur. The couple he forms with his persecutors is an aesthetic one: it is the malicious spectacle of a lively, elegant animal, both obsessed and inventive, mobile and tenacious, continually escaping and continually returning to the same area, while the giant mannequins, stiff, timorous, pompous, quite simply attempt to contain him (not punish him: this will only come later).

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