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Marquis de Sade's writing chair goes up for auction

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Paris (AFP)

The chair on which France's most notorious writer, the Marquis de Sade, wrote his most shocking work goes under the hammer in Paris Wednesday with nearly 100 of his rare surviving manuscripts.

The aristocratic author of "The 120 Days of Sodom" and "Philosophy in the Bedroom" brought the Louis XIII armchair with him through a series of prisons after he was repeatedly locked up for his outrageous sexual antics.

And it was on it that he wrote some of his most erotic and blasphemous works including his masterpiece "Justine" in 1791.

The chair and drafts of plays and letters belonging to the marquis were part of a secret cache found by his descendants sealed in a chest behind the shelves of the library of the family's chateau at Conde-en-Brie in the northern Champagne region.

They had somehow survived the flames after his son ordered that all his writings be burned when the marquis died behind bars in 1814.

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Such was the shame he brought onto their name, that by the time the trove was found after World War II the family knew nothing of his work. "His name had been scratched off the family tree," said his descendant Thibault de Sade, who is behind the sale.

"All their lives my parents battled to have de Sade recognised against all the prejudices, all the lies... And they passed on that mission to their five children," he added.

The chair is expected to make up to 50,000 euros ($56,000) at the Drouot auction rooms in Paris, while a painting of de Sade's father by Jean-Marc Nattier which he brought with him from cell to cell, is expected to go for a slightly lesser sum.

Among the papers is his marriage contract and a letter to his wife in secret ink made from lemon juice bemoaning how he was being held "in a cage reserved for beasts".

Most of the play manuscripts going under the hammer have never been performed and include "The Boudoir (or The Credulous Husband)" which was seized by the police after he wrote it in prison, and "Misanthrope by Love", the only one to have been accepted by the Comedie Francaise.

What is thought to be his last play, "Truthfulness and Treason", could reach up to 50,000 euros.

De Sade's literary reputation did not begin to be rehabilitated until the 1950s, and even then his publisher had to battle the censor to get his books printed.

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