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Sade's 120 Days of Sodom to return to France after two centuries' adventures

The manuscript of 120 Days of Sodom written by Sade in 1785
The manuscript of 120 Days of Sodom written by Sade in 1785 AFP/Martin Bureau

One of the most notorious works of erotica in the history of world literature is to be returned to France. The Marquis de Sade's Les 120 Journées de Sodome (120 Days of Sodom) has been hidden, lost, stolen and sold since it was written in the infamous Bastille prison just before the French revolution.

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This year marks the bicentenary of the death of the man who gave his name to sadism thanks to the reputation of his books, one of the most shocking was 120 Days of Sodom.

"This exceptional manuscript, stolen in 1982, reported to Interpol, and fought over by two familes, is at last coming back to France, at the end of an utterly incredible history," its new owner, Gérard Lhéritier, told the AFP news agency on Thursday.

Lhéritier, who has set up a website and a private museum devoted to historic documents, said he paid a total of seven million euros to acquire the document.

Part of the money goes to the Serge Nordmann, the son and heir of Swiss collector Gérard Nordmann, who bought it in the 1980s.

But it would have been confiscated if he had brought it to France without an agreement that some of the proceeds from the sale go to Carlo Perrone, heir to Nathalie de Noailles, from whom it was stolen in 1982.

Lloyds has insured the document for 12 million euros.

Lhéritier says that he has proposed handing it over the French national library after five years but that the culture ministry has failed to reply to his offer.

Twentieth-century French writer Georges Bataille commented that nobody finishes reading 120 Days of Sodom unless they are ill.

It tells the story of four middle-aged aristocrats, who have amassed huge fortunes through murder and corruption and practise 600 perversions on 90 boys and girls, not to mention a number of animals, most of their victims eventually dying in agony.

Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini made a flim based on the book, Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma, transposing it to the Salo fascist republic that preceded the fall of Mussolini.

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