Decried as a misogynist and pornographer, imprisoned for debauchery and for his writings, there is scarcely a cultural figure as flamboyant and controversial as the Marquis de Sade, the father of the new libertine body. But this is not, Henaff maintains, the only way to see Sade. In this long-awaited translation of a book regarded by many as the best on the subject. Henaff says that Sade should be discussed less for the sensual heat of his writing and more for the larger poetic and economic model his work represents.
With unabashed candor, Sade describes bodies in terms not of flesh but of production, use, exchange, and waste. In his writing, this libertine self is unleashed from its constraints, no longer bound by old conceptions of desire and traditions of courtship. Henaff's argument that Sade is a sign of his times -- exposing the courtly facade of a society unable to preserve itself -- reveals dark, disquieting secrets about the direction of civilization. The libertine body, he says, is a child of this new order.