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Juliette (1797-1801) by Marquis de Sade
This book is extreme, pornographic and violent, and as one of the evil characters in Les Liaisons Dangereuses puts it: "it's not my fault." Were you offended by the title of this review? First, this was not meant as a sacrilege: I try to respect the sensibility of the readers as much as I can, but when I thought of the title I just couldn't resist the temptation; I felt when I was reading the book that Sade wanted his readers to "have fun" by force. Second, it is not meant to attract people's attention through involving sex: the book belongs to erotic literature and so the title is not out of place. Furthermore, if you were offended then this book is not for you.
Many artworks have been categorized as belonging to erotic literature: Ulysses by James Joyce is one example, although in its last part which is considered arousing, there is a certain sentence that, if considered, will make one hate sex. The Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller is another example, and yet when I read the first page, the emptiness and state of complete loss and indifference in it made me miserable, Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence is a third example and the list is endless. But how do we write "real" pornography? Strong plot? Nonsense, there is no plausible plot in the world that can justify having sex with everybody without consequences. Simply put, you need repetition, orgies, and lots of words with Anglo-Saxon origin.
This huge novel, Juliette, is almost seen as the second part of Sade's novel which was written earlier, Justine. Juliette is a young orphan girl whose father went bankrupt before he died (other surprises take place later) and she chooses to work in prostitution in order to earn her living. The book is called Juliette OR Vice Amply Rewarded, and so it belongs to the series of novels that appeared after Samuel Richardson's Pamela who led a virtuous life and was rewarded. We read the book knowing what is going to happen at the end, and the book is best read with a view to Justine OR Virtue Well Chastised, but this does not mean that the book won't include any surprises, for in some books the plot is very much decentred, and this is an example of them.
Having written a little bit about Sade's 120 Days of Sodom, and because some people told me it was unreadable for them, I say: remember that Sodom is an unfinished book. The last parts of the book which are supposed to be more terrifying are missing and we have nothing except Sade's outline for them; Juliette is complete. All the "horrors" are there: Paedophilia, Zoophilia, Coprophilia, Necrophilia, Cannibalism, and of course extreme Sadism, which includes some of the trends mentioned earlier and much more.
The question is: what's the point? In the first pages of Sade's novel The 120 Days of Sodom, the author mentions that he writes about many "passions" (sexual trends) and what might seem disgusting for one is arousing for another, so the writer wants all his readers to find what suits their tastes and makes them orgasm. The man is not asking for much, is he? But is that it? No. In fact, if you manage to forget about the erotic side for some time, you might end up with valuable ideas about politics, sociology, psychoanalysis, etc.
However, please bear in mind that subsiding the erotic and violent sides of the novel is not an easy task at all. At a certain point, I truly was infuriated as Sade explained how a certain whip can be cleaned from flesh easily. Well, at that point in the novel the characters were wallowing in "disgusting" liquids, why didn't he think of the word "bath" for instance? I wonder if he read The Arabian Nights and saw how many times that word was mentioned in it; he should have made use of it instead of worrying about his tools.
In terms of style, Sade is not exactly one of the elite as far as French literature is concerned; he wrote his books simply because his ego demanded it. However, his books may still surprise you with their content.
My advice: If you want to read one (or all) of Sade's books, take a break. When I first read The 120 days of Sodom I took a break by reading the first five books of Harry Potter. It is a great method, by the way, not only with Sade; again when I read Les Miserables, I had to read some comic plays afterwards. Juliette is a huge book, so there's nothing wrong with reading it over a long period of time; don't stress yourselves with it.
<<< Recommended? >>>
No, thank you, I have enough sins and I don't want to add more by advising people to read such a book. I know that some of you will disregard the idea completely, but for those of you who are planning to read it, please be aware that this novel might make you know about yourselves secrets that you didn't know before and this can be disturbing. Anyway, I gave the book five stars. I liked the experience: it is erotic, it makes one think, it is written by a person who was obsessed with sex and yet spent long years imprisoned and prevented thereby from practicing his ultimate passion. For me, this is a real book and the added footnotes written by Sade himself make the book even richer and more meaningful. If you are tempted to read this book and don't mind the subject matter, it would be helpful to read Justine at first because it is less extreme than Juliette and much shorter, so reading it will introduce you to Sade's style and allow you to make important comparisons between the two.
<<< Reading Experience >>>
The book is huge; it is 1205 pages long, 5.5 cm thick, and divided into six parts only, but there are certain spaces on some pages to stop reading when it is safe to do so. Moreover, the pages are somewhat thin and the font is small; not to say that reading it is difficult, but to give you an idea of how long the book is, so reading it requires some determination and patience on your part.
<<< Price and Book Info >>>
Price: £9.50 new from Amazon Paperback: 1216 pages Publisher: Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press; 1st Complete American Ed edition (31 Dec 1968) Language English ISBN-10: 0802130852 ISBN-13: 978-0802130853 Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 13.7 x 5.1 cm
Summary: It is the Bible of sex and violence.
Note: The questions about this review are for an audio book although the category is correct; I contacted Ciao but they did nothing about that so please ignore these questions. I was further informed that many members had a similar problem with the recently added printed books.
Never read this, although I think it would be a very interesting read, if not particularly enjoyable!
plod591 18.11.2007 16:24
Another superb review from your repotoire. The mention of Necrophilia reminded me of it being coupled with sadism but found I was flogging a dead horse !!! In all seriousness now, a brilliant review despite whatever ones reading preference. It is the review not the product we rate so have an E from me. x