Monthly Archives: November 2020

RIP Jan Morris (1926 – 2020)

Jan Morris (1926 – 2020) was a Welsh writer known for being one of the first celebrity transgenders in the West.

She wrote the book Conundrum about his sex reassignment surgery.

Two quotes from that book:

“I was three or perhaps four years old when I realized that I had been born into the wrong body, and should really be a girl. I remember the moment well, and it is the earliest memory of my life.”

“The first man who ever kissed me, in a carnal way, after my return from Casablanca, was a London taxi-driver who drove me one morning to the recently opened Army museum in Chelsea. We chatted all the way across London, and when we reached the museum he got out of his cab to look at the new building with me. Quite suddenly, slipping his arm around my waist boldly on the pavement, he kissed me roughly and not at all disagreeably on the lips. ‘There’s a good girl,’ he said, patting my bottom and returning to his cab: and all I did was blush.”

You are not worth more than an oyster …

Researching several dicta of Marquis de Sade I came across this one:

“The life of the most sublime of men is to nature not of greater importance than that of an oyster.”

This dictum only appears in the third version of Justine (1797), a version which has not been translated into English, the translation above is mine.

Stillleben mit Austern und Zitrone (1881) by Josef Lauer

The dictum, I found out afterwards, resembles a dictum by the British philosopher David Hume, who wrote in his work “On Suicide” (1777):

“the life of man is of no greater importance to the universe than that of an oyster”.

The only difference is that Sade added the notion ‘sublime’ to the statement, making the extra point that even outstanding men are not worth more than an oyster. It seems that the likeness between the two dicta is too great to be coincidental.

I have not been able to find out whether Sade actually read Hume. The text by Hume precedes that of Sade by 20 years, so technically he would have the had time and the opportunity, but in fact, I’m not even sure Sade read English. I know that he had read The Monk and other gothic novels, but possibly he read them in a translation.

I went looking for paintings of oysters that could illustrate this post and found two.

One by Manet. One by a certain Josef Lauer. The Lauer one is very fleshy and sexual. The one by Manet is less fleshy and less lively, but more more stylized, in fact, an incredible painting.

Oysters (1862) by Manet


Watching the film Marquis (1989) for a second time last night, occasioned by the death of Michel Robin, brought the following dictum to my attention:

… qu’importe à sa main créatrice que cette masse de chair conformant aujourd’hui d’un individu bipède, se produise demain sous la forme de mille insectes différents?…”

This appears to be a variation of Sade’s dictum that a “mass of flesh which today constitutes an individual … may be reproduced tomorrow in the form of a thousand insects”.

 Man into Wolf (1951)

In my quest to find the origin of this citation (Justine), I stumbled upon Man into Wolf (1951) by Robert Eisler. That book has a good chapter on Marquis de Sade, and, is in the public domain since this year.

RIP Michel Robin (1930 – 2020)

In France, the actor Michel Robin died. He turned 90. He played in more than 120 films. Always bit parts. You can recognize him by his bald head and the banal characters he usually had to portray.
Mais ne nous délivrez pas du mal (1971)

Favorites are Mais ne nous délivrez pas du mal (1971), a film about two beautiful adolescent girls who start indulging in a satanic love for evil. Robin plays the simple gardener whose parakeet is killed by the diabolic duo.

There is L’Invitation (1973) in which Robin plays a simple and clumsy office worker who, after inheriting a fortune, invites his colleagues to his new estate. There, those good bourgeois men and women are intoxicated by a spiked drink at the hands of a rogue bartender. The situation escalates. Cult movie.
 Marquis (1989)

And then there is the genius animal head puppet film Marquis (1989) in which Robin voices a certain Ambert, a rat prison guard who is eager to be sodomized by the Marquis de Sade, something Colin, the living and talking phallus of the Marquis does not wish to indulge in.

The Marquis de Sade: Pornographer or Prophet?
The Marquis de Sade: Pornographer or Prophet? (2001)

Buying a copy of a Dutch translation of Sexual Personae by Camille Paglia re-kindled my research stamina in the Marquis.

I found the docu above.

The Marquis de Sade: Pornographer or Prophet?  (2001) features Andrea Dworkin, Camille Paglia, Francine du Plessix Gray, Richard Seaver, David Coward, Neil Schaeffer, Neil Cox, Thomas Wynn, Conroy Maddox.

Some of the people in this so-so portrait are already dead. Andrea Dworkin, Francine du Plessix Gray, Richard Seaver and Conroy Maddox are no longer among us.

Dworkin, who while writing her book Pornography: Men Possessing Women (1981), read many Sade-biographies, makes a notable appearance saying — predictably — this of Sade:

“My pacifism was first challenged when, working on my book on pornography in the late 1970s, Pornography: Men Possessing Women, I read a half dozen biographies of the Marquis de Sade. A life of rape and sexual violence, including kidnapping and possibly murder, would have been stopped short if his first (known) victim, Jeanne Testard, had killed him.” —Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women’s Liberation

Paglia gives Sade too much praise, as usual, even making him a obligatory reading for feminists and in universities.

The nicest surprise was probably seeing Francine du Plessix Gray, and her well-balanced views.

Another nice aspect of the docu is that footage from some Sade films is shown.

‘The Story of I’ (1997) by Jo Anne Kaplan

One Kaplan leading to another, I would like to bring The Story of I (1997) to your attention.

I first heard of this film when it came out, and since then, its director Jo Anne Kaplan (1945-2016) has died.

The film is based on Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille and it consists of a Kaplan reading her own paraphrase of that Bataille novel which I bought when visiting Atlanta, Georgia when I worked for Microsoft.