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'120 Days of Sodom': France’s National Treasure

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The 18-th century erotic masterpiece was withdrawn from a Paris auction as it was about to be sold.

French officials ordered to ban the export of Marquis de Sade’s “120 Days of Sodom” from France, dubbing the manuscript a national treasure along with Andre Breton’s "Surrealist Manifestos."

Previously owned by the French investment firm Aristophil, the world’s largest private collection of historic manuscripts, which went bankrupt in 2015 after its founder Gerard Lheritier was charged with fraud and money laundering, Sade’s highly controversial work was expected to fetch up to 6 million euros at a Drouot auction.

In his book, Sade tells the story of four wealthy libertines seeking to experience the ultimate sexual gratification in orgies, while he was imprisoned in the Bastille. After the French Revolution and the storm of Bastille, he believed that the manuscript – a 39-feet-long roll of paper smuggled into his cell – was lost forever, but eventually it was found. The masterpiece remained unpublished until the 20th century.

Auctioneer Claude Aguttes, who is handling the inventory and coordination of 300 sales at Drouot, said that France’s Ministry of Culture had proposed to buy the Sade and Breton works "at international market rates."

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