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Title page of 1968 translation by Austryn Wainhouse
|Author||The Marquis de Sade|
|Original title||Histoire de Juliette, ou les Prospérités du vice|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Preceded by||La Nouvelle Justine|
|Followed by||The Crimes of Love (1800)|
Juliette is a novel written by the Marquis de Sade and published 1797–1801, accompanying Sade's Nouvelle Justine. While Justine, Juliette's sister, was a virtuous woman who consequently encountered nothing but despair and abuse, Juliette is an amoral nymphomaniac murderer who is successful and happy. The full title of the novel in the original French is Histoire de Juliette ou les Prospérités du vice, and the English title is "Juliette, or Vice Amply Rewarded" (versus "Justine; or Good Conduct Well-Chastised", considered to be the prequel of Juliette). As many other of his works, Juliette follows a pattern of violently pornographic scenes followed by long treatises on a broad range of philosophical topics, including theology, morality, aesthetics, naturalism and also Sade's dark, fatalistic view of world metaphysics.
Juliette is raised in a convent. However, at age thirteen she is seduced by a woman who immediately explains that morality, religion and other such concepts are meaningless. There are plenty of similar philosophical musings during the book, all attacking the ideas of God, morals, remorse, love, etc., the overall conclusion being that the only aim in life is "to enjoy oneself at no matter whose expense." Juliette takes this to the extreme and manages to murder her way through numerous people, including various family members and friends.
During Juliette's life from age 13 to about 30, the wanton anti-heroine engages in virtually every form of depravity and encounters a series of like-minded libertines. She meets the ferocious Clairwil, whose main passion is in murdering young men and boys as revenge for the man's brutality to her sex. She meets Saint Fond, a 50-year-old multi-millionaire who commits incest with his daughter, murders his father, tortures young girls to death on a daily basis and even plots an ambitious scheme to provoke a famine that will wipe out half the population of France. In her journeys she also becomes acquainted with Minski, a nomadic, ogre-like Muscovite, who delights in raping and torturing young boys and girls to death and consuming the remains.
Real people in Juliette
A long audience with Pope Pius VI is one of the most extensive scenes in Juliette. The heroine shows off her learning to the pope (whom she most often addresses by his secular name "Braschi") with a verbal catalogue of alleged immoralities committed by his predecessors. The audience ends, like almost every other scene in the narrative, with an orgy.
Soon after this, the male character Brisatesta narrates two scandalous encounters. The first is with "Princess Sophia, niece of the King of Prussia", who has just married "the Stadtholder" at the Hague. This is presumably intended for Wilhelmina of Prussia, Princess of Orange, who married William V of Orange, the last Dutch Stadtholder, in 1767, and was still alive when Juliette was published thirty years later. The second encounter is with Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia.
If one removes the narrative and pornographic scenes of Juliette, what would be left could perhaps be the ultimate example of de Sade's lifelong philosophy. Juliette holds that "nature" (often referred to as 'she' by the characters) is the prime mover of all human experience, and through implanting sexual appetites and desires in man it has thereby justified all sexual depravities. De Sade argues that desire is an intrinsically natural phenomenon and therefore is wholly justifiable, no matter how violent or depraved, for it has come from nature, and by establishing rules such as morality and political law which prevent one from exercising one's desires, mankind is offending nature.
Publication and reception
Both Justine and Juliette were published anonymously. Napoleon ordered the arrest of the author, and as a result de Sade was incarcerated without trial for the last thirteen years of his life.
The essay "Juliette or Enlightenment and Morality" in Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947) analyzes Juliette as the embodiment of the philosophy of enlightenment. They write: "she demonizes Catholicism as the most-up-to-date mythology, and with it civilization as a whole […] her procedures are enlightened and efficient as she goes about her work of sacrilege […] She favours system and consequence."
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