#If you’re a stickler for not knowing anything about the contents of a novel, this may include spoilers, but hey.
This past week I read the Marquis de Sade’s, Justine in a quick break between Game of Thrones books (guilty pleasure, so so so good.) For those of you who are not familiar with de Sade, Donatien Alphonse Francois, Marquis de Sade was a French aristocrat and writer in the late 18th century who became famous for his libertine sexuality. His erotic works are his most famous and combine philosophical discourse with pornography. Many of his works were written in prison in which he spent around 32 years of his life.
Justine, or The Misfortunes of Virtue tells the story of two sisters, Justine and Juliette. Abandoned by their bankrupt father the young women go their separate ways, Juliette to follow a path of sin and Justine the path of virtue. Many years later Juliette, now Madame de Lorsange requests to know the story of a young woman in police custody – Sophie. The remainder of the novel follows Sophie retelling the trials and tribulations that she has faced since she was orphaned at a young age.
The dominant theme throughout the novel is the idea that for any virtuous act, a person must be punished, as Sophie is punished brutally and continuously. It was quite interesting as Sophie came upon many people who attempted to convince her to join their sordid way of life. The justifications would vary but were always quite logical and would always ring true as the worst villains would profit in wealth and status. At the heart of it, Justine is the antithesis to the saying, ‘Do as to others as you would have them do to you.’ Because at the end of the day people will act exactly as how will benefit them regardless of how this may harm others.
It’s quite a short read but it’s also very smooth which made me devour it quite quickly – there was no difficulty in interpretation like you sometimes get with novels from that era. It is a bit icky in places if you don’t mind the term but at the same time quite fascinating. I’d definitely recommend it if you were looking for a read that will challenge how you think but not tire you out whilst doing so.