Tear Vases, Seven Sponges, A Neapolitan Knife, A Military Almanac, A Rhyming Dictionary . . .

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)—

9. Returning to France from Italy, Sade has sent from Naples to La Coste two large cases; the second, weighing six quintals, travels on the boat Aimable Marie; it contains: “marbles, stones, a vase or amphora for storing Greek wines with resin, antique lamps, tear vases, all à la Greek and Roman, medals, idols, raw and worked stones from Vesuvius, a fine sepulchral urn intact, Etruscan vases, medals, a sculptured piece in serpentine, a bit of nitrate solfatara, seven sponges, a collection of shells, a tiny hermaphrodite and a vase of flowers . . . a marble dish decorated with singularly lifelike fruits of all varieties, chests of drawers of Vesuvian marble, a Saracen buccherini or cup, a Neapolitan knife, used clothing and prints. . . Proofs of Religion, a treatise on the existence of God . . . The Rejected Tithe, an almanac of plays, The Gallant Saxon, a military almanac, Mme de Pompadour’s letters . . . a rhyming dictionary” (LéLy, i, 568). This variety of wares is in every way worthy of Bouvard and Pécuchet: we lack only a few ellipses, a few asyndeta, to read here a bit of Flaubertian bravura. The Marquis, however, did not write this inventory; yet he is the one who amassed this collection, whose heteroclite cultural nature is derisory in relation to culture itself. Dual proof: of the baroque energy of which Sade was capable, and of the writing energy he put into his acts.

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