Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Rebel, Entry 4, From Sade to Dandies

"You're a rebellious soul in a good-looking body." -- my first therapist, c. 1986

     Well, I'm not as good looking as I used to be... which brings me to Camus' presentation of the Marquis De Sade. I am not familiar with the writings of Sade and I think I'm going to keep it that way.  Apparently Sade spent many years in prison and had time to dream up all kinds of wacky fantasies. Mainly, Camus is giving Sade as an example of complete negation. In his imagination Sade wants to dominate and then destroy the universe, or something. Sadism sounds exhausting.
     Camus portrays Sade's work as ending with all the victims dead and the executioners are left to turn on each other:

"The most powerful, the one who will survive, is the solitary, the Unique, whose glorification Sade has undertaken -- in other words, himself...He is in fact alone, imprisoned in a bloodstained Bastille, entirely constructed around a still unsatisfied, and henceforth undirected, desire for pleasure. He has only triumphed in a dream and those ten volumes crammed with philosophy and atrocities recapitulate an unhappy form of asceticism, an illusory advance from the total no to the absolute yes, an acquiescence in death at last, which transfigures the assassination of everything and everyone into a collective suicide."(pg. 45)

Camus says that Sade equated 'freedom' with 'crime'.  He was a proponent of a free republic where freedom seemed mixed-up with degradation.  Camus writes:

"The history and the tragedy of our times really begin with him.  He only believed that a society founded on freedom of crime must coincide with freedom of morals, as though servitude had its limits. Our times have a limited themselves to blending, in a curious manner, his dream of a universal republic and his technique of degradation."(pg. 47)

Devastatingly, Camus concludes:
" Crime, which he wanted to be the exotic and delicious fruit of unbridled vice, is no more today than the dismal habit of a police-controlled morality.  Such are the surprises of literature."(pg. 47)

I watched 'The Daily Show' today and it had some professor talking about drones.  Far from crime being erotic it'll be some workaday operation.

     After, I'm sorry, an unenlightening passage about how the modern rebel begins in the romantic movement by siding with Satan in "Paradise Lost', he takes on the dandies.

"The dandy is, by occupation, always in opposition."(pg. 51)  I guess by wearing a loud sweater I, too, can be a rebel.

"He[the dandy] plays at life because he is unable to live it.  He plays at it until he dies, except for the moments when he is alone and without a mirror.  For the dandy, to be alone is not to exist."(pg. 52)

I'm actually a big fan of Oscar Wilde, but it's hard these days to take too seriously the mannered rebellion of a late 19th Century upper-class Londoner. And I can't help quoting Billy Joel:

"How about a pair of pink sidewinders
And a bright orange pair of pants?
"You could really be a Beau Brummel baby
If you just give it half a chance"
--It's Still Rock and Roll to Me

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