Chapter Five - The unacceptable face of the French Revolution 231
231 Chapter Five The unacceptable face of the French Revolution The subject of this chapter, its ‘unacceptable face’, is the Marquis de Sade. If this seems more like an admission than a declaration of intent, then it is an acknowledgement of the difficulty of discussing Sade in any context. Consider, for example, the reservations expressed by Otto Flake in 1930: I did not embark upon this study of the life and work of the Marquis de Sade without some qualms. It was not the consciousness of lacking qualifications that worried me, for one need be neither doctor nor psychiatrist to illuminate this theme. Rather it seemed that today, when the demand for a biography has called into being what amounts to a special industry, the motive of one who singles out for examination one of the most unpleasant individuals in history might well be suspect. 1 Otto Flake was in fact a doctor and he would presumably therefore have been considered immune from the moral risks that studying Sade was thought to entail. 2 Flake’s qualms, however, were well-founded, suggesting that we should remain suspicious of any motives for singling Sade out (including our own). In the context of Georges Bataille’s suggestion that ‘to admire de Sade is to diminish the force of his ideas’, both motive and response implicate the critic in the construction of a volatile subject. 3 If Bataille was correct, then Sade 1 O. Flake, The Marquis de Sade with a postscript on Restif de la...
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