I finished The 120 Days of Sodom and Daring Do and the Eternal Flower and can now give short reviews here and add them to the list of books I’ve read in 2017.
The 120 Days of Sodom (1785 (first published 1904), this edition + translation 2016) by The Marquis de Sade
A highly-controversial book which has been banned at various times – it’s still, I hear, illegal to display Sade’s works in shop windows in France. Even if the name of the book isn’t familiar, the name of the author should be. The Marquis de Sade is the man from whose name we get the term “sadism.” He was a French Nobleman and a libertine who followed his passions without concern for others. This led him through a number of scandals over his sexual behaviour and eventually saw him imprisoned.
While in prison, he wrote The 120 Days of Sodom, whose manuscript was only re-discovered and published decades later. The story details four libertines who, with a cast of boys, girls, young men and old ladies, seclude themselves in a Swiss castle to indulge in their most base urges. In the narration it is described as “the most impure tale ever written.” It certainly lives up to that name and there would be very few people not shocked by some of the content which includes paedophilia, bestiality, scat, watersports, rape, torture and snuff. I think one of the footnotes by the translators gives a taste of what it is like in the later chapters.
8. they crush his two balls: Sade makes an error here: Narcisse’s testicles have already been cut off (see above, p. 380).
That also hints at one of the other problems with the book; it’s unfinished and unedited. Sade only completed part 1 while parts 2-4 are seldom more than a series of points he wants to describe. With Sade having been dead over 200 years, we will never see them fleshed out which does make it easier to read.
I am not entirely sure what Sade was aiming to accomplish with the book. It’s not an erotic read, he actually seems to try to repulse people. It’s not trying to convince people to see things his way (or if it is then it fails completely). It doesn’t even make much of an effort to explain the characters views. There are occasional times where the characters will discuss their philosophy and those are usually interesting but they are too few and far between. It could just be a list of his own fantasies but many things he describes are just too similar to one another.
In the end, I can’t really recommend reading it. It pales in comparison to Venus in Furs by the Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, source of the term “masochism.” Venus in Furs is better written, complete and delves deeper into the character’s psychology.
Daring Do and the Eternal Flower (2014) by A. K. Yearling (G. M. Berrow)
This is the final one of the three Daring Do books (at least in the order I read them) and I can say that it is the best one. Not only do we do we have a proper villain but we get both Caballeron and Ahuizotl making an appearance. There is also action, adventure and puzzle solving with some new characters deception and weird magical effects. It is still aimed at children and the detail level is the same as the others but this one manages to pack a lot more in than the previous books did. This is what I expected when I got the Daring Do books.