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France declares national treasure ' the 120 Days of Sodom ' to avoid sale

The objective is to avoid the auction of the famous manuscript of the Marquis de Sade

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France declares national treasure ' the 120 Days of Sodom ' to avoid sale

The French government declared yesterday national treasure original manuscript of most well-known work of Marquis de Sade, 120 days of Sodom or school of debauchery, which was part of a public sale that was to start tomorrow at Parisian house of Drouot auctions. The gesture of state prevents document from leaving French territory and insinuates its will to acquire it, although that perspective has not been confirmed, for moment, by official sources. The Ministry of Culture also halted yesterday sale of a set of manuscripts by André Breton, including two manifestos of surrealism, movement that French writer led from 1924.

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The documents are part of Aristophil Society Fund, whose founder, French businessman Gérard Lhéritier, declared bankruptcy in 2015. Today he is suspicious of having swindled his investors through purchase of historical manuscripts. This set, which make up about 130,000 pieces, will be liquidated for next six years in successive auctions. Its benefits will be distributed among those harmed by bankruptcy of Aristophil. In lots that will be auctioned, testimony of a survivor of Titanic, Helen Churchill Candee, that would inspire Oscar film of James Cameron of 1997, besides manuscripts of Alexandre Dumas and private correspondence of Napoleon Bonaparte . All of m may be sold to highest bidder, except Sade manuscript and texts of Breton, which must remain in French territory, as stipulated in legislation in force.

The libidinous work of French aristocrat, written during his incarceration in Bastille prison in 1785, became an object of fascination for French intellectuals in twentieth century. Authors like Michel Foucault, Roland Bars, Gilles Deleuze or Simone de Beauvoir studied meaning of texts of Sade, become herald of a libertine emancipation and advanced in its time. Since 1990, his work is part of prestigious collection La Pléiade, which fixes canon of universal literature.

The manuscript containing 120 days of Sodom is a spectacular 12-metre-long scroll, written double-sided in lowercase letters and which Sade would have hidden inside a comforter to avoid being expropriated. The head of auction, Claude Aguttes, decided to withdraw yesterday this manuscript of sale, where ir price could have declined substantially, since decision of French state excludes foreign collectors. Aguttes added that French state has "great interest" in closing sale and has agreed to negotiate a possible purchase "at price of international market, as indicated by law." The output price of manuscript was between four and six million euros, although now it could reach a rar higher figure, "up to seven or eight million", according to Aguttes, who had detected, in recent days, interest on part of buyers Americans and Turks. "It is an incredible and sulfurous work, which can frighten or seduce, according to type of buyer," auctioneer says. Aguttes recalls that private patronage legislation "allows tax exemption of 90% of transaction, which makes operation tempting for its potential buyers."

For Michel Delon, professor emeritus of French literature at Sorbonne and great specialist in work of Sade, most probable solution goes through "an alliance between state and Division of Cultural patronage of an industrial group that continues to have participation Public ". Thus it happened with purchase of a text of similar profile: The History of My life, posthumous memories of Giacomo Casanova, written in French at end of eighteenth century and published towards 1825 in censured version, which National Library of France bought in 2010 for more than Seven million euros, in an alliance with a patron of business world who preferred to remain anonymous.

The incorporation of manuscript of Sade to a public collection would be, for Delon, more symbolic than functional. "It is a mythical text since 1920s, when Surrealists began to vindicate Sade. It is an object of maximum transgression and, as such, a kind of totem. But it is also a very fragile object, with leaves stuck toger and a rar small writing. It is very spectacular and at same time re is not much to read at naked eye. The key would be to digitize it to ensure that everyone has access to it, "says Delon. The expert does not believe that interest of State for work of Sade means that it has ceased to be scandalous. In 2014, François Hollande's government showed an interest in acquiring it, but it ended up reversing. "They were worried that public opinion would protest against such an expensive purchase, in a context of crisis and high unemployment," says Delon. "It's actually a text that still retains all its strength and impact."

A common mechanism

Declaring a national treasure a work susceptible to abandoning state territory is a common mechanism in France, where a commission formed by 11 senior officials and experts, mostly appointed by Ministry of Culture, examines which objects and documents They deserve protection of State.

Only in 2017, national Treasury has declared a plaster model of Rodin, a painting by Fragonard and a sculpture of Cyclades islands, although State has not yet acquired any of m. The National Library of France did, on or hand, buy Nadja's manuscript, by André Breton, for 2 million euros.

According to Le Figaro, state would now be willing to disburse up to 8 million euros for erotic best-seller of Marquis de Sade and about 5 more by manuscripts of Breton, which investors of Aristophil bought, in its day, by 22 million. The public authorities have 30 months to find a patron willing to participate in operation.

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