We continued on our way into the dry and scorched little plain where this phenomenon can be observed. The ground around it is sandy, uncultivated, and filled with stones. As we proceeded further we perceived an extreme heat, and breathed in the smell of copper and coal exhaled by the volcano; at last we spied the flame, which had been made to blaze more brightly by a soft rain that happened to fall at that moment; the crater must be thirty or forty feet all the way round, and if the earth is dug up in this area then small fires start right away beneath the tool that has broken the surface …Sade (Juliette)
An express letter shall be sent to Monsieur Lenormand, a timber merchant [ … ] requesting that he come in person, with a cart, to fetch my body so that it may be conveyed[ … ] to the forest on my estate at Malmaision [ … ] where I wish it to be placed, without ceremony of any kind, in the first thick copse to be found on the right in the aforementioned forest [ … ] My grave is to be dug in this copse by the farmer at Malmaison, under the supervision of M. Lenormand, who will not leave my body until it has been placed in the said grave [ … ] Once the grave is covered over it is to be sown i,,ith acorns, in order that, in due course, as the ground around tlie said grave produces new growth and the copse becomes as dense as it was before, all traces of my burial shall disappear from the face of the Earth, as I trust that my memory will be effaced from the minds of men.Testament of the Marquis de Sade
The different types of anticipation that destroy the present are expressed in Sade’s works by the mental operations which govern the different varieties of ‘experimental’ debauchery. Happiness consists not in enjoyment but in the desire to break free from what restrains desire; things are not enjoyed for their being present, but in the anticipation of these things while they are still absent – in other words these things are to be enjoyed by destroying their actual presence – (murders committed during debaucheries) – or if they disappoint – and seem to be rejecting their presence (through resistance to what we should like to do to them) they will be treated badly so as to make them at once present and destroyed (which in moral sadism is expressed, for example, in the sacrilege addressed to God in his absence). For some of Sade’s characters, disappointed anticipation ends up becoming an erogenous fiction: the object does not disappoint, but is treated as if it did disappoint. Furthermore, one of these overly favoured characters admits that, having only to wish for something in order to have it, his enjoyment was never motivated by the objects around him, “but by those that were not”. “Is it possible to commit crimes as we conceive them and as you say here? For my part I confess that my imagination has always exceeded my abilities, I have always conceived in my head a thousand times more than the number of deeds I have actually carried out, and I have always protested that nature, which furnished me with the desire to
violate it, has always deprived me of the means to do so.”
Here again, Nature is experienced as a presence that calls anticipation into
being, but a presence that shies away from aggressive anticipation: the Sadean conscience sees itself face to face with its own eternity, which it has disowned and can no longer recognise in the guise of wily Nature; on the one hand, in terms of the individual’s organic functions, Nature experiences his aggression; on the other hand, as regards the workings of the imagination, Nature gains some sense of the infinite; but instead of finding its eternal condition there and experiencing itself as part of the universal unity, Nature discerns – as in a mirror – only the infinite reflection of the diverse and multiple possibilities that are lost to the individual. The ultimate violation of Nature would be to cease to be an individual, and instead to assume in totality, immediately and simultaneously, everything that can be found in Nature: this would result in achieving a pseudo-eternity, or rather a temporal existence, that of polymorphous perversity. Having rejected the immortality of the soul, Sade’s characters instead put themselves forward as candidates for complete monstrosity, thus denying the temporal elaboration of their own self, while their anticipation then paradoxically places them in a state of possessing all the possibilities for potential development, as expressed by their sense of uninhibited power. The erotic imagination which develops as the individual is formed, counterbalancing at times a perversion and at other times the instinct to reproduce, and which chooses an individual’s moments of solitude or anticipation – moments when the world and people are absent – to invade the self, would thus correspond to an unconscious attempt to retrieve everything possible which has been made impossible because of the hold exerted by the self’s conscience – a formation that has enabled the development of the alter ego – and which leads in turn to aggressive behaviour, to the detriment of external reality, aimed at regaining the individual’s original integrity or wholeness. In this way, for the individual living in a state of permanent anticipation, the imagination must make one more effort to escape the object he is anticipating, so as to return to the atemporal condition in which the possession of everything possible nevertheless excluded the possibility of the experience of loss. Through the mouths of his characters, Sade himself confessed: “I invented horrors, and put them on paper quite deliberately: with an attitude of ruling nothing out, however costly my planned debaucheries might prove to be, I carried them out right away.” Indeed Sade, the solitary prisoner, deprived of all means of action, effectively had the same power as the omnipotent hero of whom he dreamed: the uninhibited power which knows no resistance, which knows no obstacles, neither outside nor within the self, and which only has the sense of its own unseeing discharge. “I carried them out right away.” Such haste, however, cannot really manage to exhaust the n1.ovement of”this type of inconstancy, the scourge of the soul and the all too fatal attribute of our sad humanity.” Thus the soul, aspiring to deliverance, is prey to a contradictory hope; it hopes to escape the painful experience of loss by refusing the object its presence, while at the very same moment dying from the desire to see the object reintegrated into the present, and shattered there by the passage of time the destroyer.