It Is the Point One Is at that Makes a Thing Good or Bad, and Not the Thing Itself

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.

17. At Vincennes in 1783, the penitentiary administration forbade the prisoner’s receiving Rousseau’sConfessions. Sade comments: “They honor me in thinking that a deist author could be a bad book for me; I wish I were at that point… Understand, it is the point one is at that makes a thing good or bad, and not the thing itself… Start there, dear sirs, and by sending me the book I request, be sensible enough to understand that for died-in-the-wool bigots like yourselves, Rousseau can be a dangerous author, and that makes it an excellent book for me. For me, JeanJacques is what the Imitation of Christ is for you…” Censorship is abhorrent on two levels: because it is repressive, because it is stupid; so that we always have the contradictory urge to combat it and to teach it a lesson.

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