The 120 Days of Sodom is probably the worst book I have read by the Marquis de Sade. This is probably a great compliment to him as a writer because the book is still very good.
The 120 Days is the book that is usually known as De Sade's masterpiece, although he personally preffered Justine, a better story. Anyway, the story is simple. Several wealthy libertines take a retreat to a secret castle to engage in sinister acts. There victims are specially chosen people who suit their particular tastes and in most cases have been abducted to get there.
The story takes place over 30 days in which the libertines engage in every sexual indecency you can think of. The punishments for those who are do not perform adaquatly are violent and cruel and the book could easily be the most evil story ever conceived.
This should not be a deterrant for any mature reader. Those who want to spite De Sade will have an easy time taking shots at the sexual superficialities of the book. Anyone who tries to read and understand the book will discover it to be rich in ingenius philisophical ideas.
The 120 Days is, admittedly, an arduous task to get through and is not De Sade's best work. The story unfortunatly is predictable juggling sexual escapades with philisophical matters.
De Sade's best work remains Eugenie de Franvale, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Justine.
The short work in this book entitled Florville de Courval is the best part of the collection and makes the book worth buying instantly. It tells the tale of a poor women who's life has been plagued by misfortune, a theme dealt with in Justine. Her misfortunes accumulate at the ending into the ultimate in ironic finales. The story is only 75 pages long but is brilliant in every sense.
De Sade is a great, if not misunderstood writer. The quality of the language and the conviction of his philosophies prove that to anyone who has ever dared to honestly read one of his books.
Do not be afraid of the man's reputation. He is a smart man and if you give the guy the chance he'll prove it.