François Ost

The Marquis de Sade and the Law Publication date : October 20, 2005

Perhaps, suggests François Ost, crimes, lies and imposture lie at the heart of existence. In any case, the Marquis de Sade certainly thought so, as his life and works show. Yet Ost’s analyses do not conclude with the banal observations that de Sade led an outlaw existence and that his work is nothing but a vindication of crime. Instead, Ost focuses on the much more fascinating notion of perversion, which, through some subtle shifting of the notion of law, succeeds in restoring law — or at least a certain form of it — at the very moment when the law itself is being challenged and ridiculed. But what is this “other law” that the pervert follows and which is so much crueller and more imperative than the law of the land?
This is a remarkable investigation into the tumultuous existence of de Sade, who provoked the authorities of three successive regimes. It is also the first systematic study of his monumental oeuvre from the perspective of his relation to the law: de Sade denounces the principles of the new criminal code that France was about to adopt at the time; he challenges the so-called laws of nature, to which he opposes the destructive forces of elemental nature; he subverts the codes and rules of good writing; he denies the law of the Father to which he opposes the fetishism of consecrated pleasure.
Ost’s earlier work, Raconter la loi, aimed to be the first political novel of the law, from Mount Sinai and Greek tragedy to Faust and Kafka. In the present work, he continues telling the story — but this time he uncovers its hidden face, its inaudible undercurrents.
François Ost, a philosopher and jurist, is the vice-rector of the faculties of Saint-Louis University, in Brussels. He also teaches in Geneva and at the University of Louvain-la-Neuve. He is the author of Le temps du droit (1999) and Raconter la loi (2004).