Sade: A Biography

Maurice Lever, Author, Arthur Goldhammer, Translator Farrar Straus Giroux $35 (626p) ISBN 978-0-374-20298-9
The Marquis Donatien de Sade (1740-1814) encountered in this big, stylish, masterful biography is neither a misanthropic monster nor a romantic libertarian genius. Splicing a sweeping narrative with a trove of hitherto unpublished letters from the Sade family archives, Lever recreates the family psychodynamics that shaped Sade's personality, obsessions and depravities. Director of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, Lever maintains that the prolific libertine author had a ``negative Oedipus complex''--Sade hated his indifferent mother, who abandoned him to join a convent, but he enjoyed a ``symbiosis'' with his libertine father, an ambassador and secret agent for Louis XV. A central figure in this elegant biography is Sade's steadfastly devoted wife Renee-Pelagie, who recognized that beneath the dominating manipulator lurked a helpless, needy child. We see Sade finally as a brutally cunning, consummate actor who donned the masks of repentant sinner, jealous lover, revolutionary citizen and self-declared man of letters. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993
Release date: 08/01/1993
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 644 pages - 978-0-15-600111-3
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