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Bookmaking

To the Editors:

The full-page advertisement for a translation of the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Journées de Sodome which appeared in your issue of March 17 is as mendacious and misleading as possible. It begins by stating that The New Yorker had “devoted” to its “subject matter” “the reading spaces of 38 pages of its issue of September 18th.” I wrote the article in question, which is a biographical and critical study of Sade and devotes only one paragraph to the 120 Journées. The ad then goes on to a statement which will make anyone who knows the book laugh: “He [Sade] sets up his story like a magic mirror. Standing before it, you can see yourself at your best and at your worst, where you began and where you’ll wind up.” The characters in Sade’s novel never show humanity at its best. They are wholly fantastic monsters, and it is hard to imagine that anyone will “wind up” like them. Even the account of the manuscript is false: “There was no book until Dr. Bloch hunted up the most important of the lost parts, connected them with what was authentically de Sade, discarded the unscrupulous rubbish added by others, and so brought to light one of the true gems of mankind.” Actually, the only known manuscript was acquired by Iwan Bloch all in one long scroll in Sade’s handwriting. Nothing was added to it by anyone else. Bloch published a defective version of this, and later Maurice Heine made a better one.

Edmund Wilson

Wellfleet, Massachusetts

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