SKorea lifts ban on graphic Marquis de Sade novel

October 15, 2012 - 1:34 PM

PARIS (AP) — It's been almost two centuries since his death, yet French writer the Marquis de Sade has lost none of his ability to trigger moral debate.

In Asia, South Korea has lifted a monthlong ban on his graphic novel "120 Days of Sodom" after a national censorship board gave the book another read.

The book, which follows four rich French libertines through orgies, pedophilia and rape, was written in Paris in 1785 but remained unpublished until the early 1900s.

It hit South Korean bookshelves in August after a Korean translation was published — more than 220 years after Sade penned the original manuscript. The novel, accused by Seoul authorities of "triggering ... violent excitement," was banned Sept. 6 by the country's Publication Ethics Commission from publication and was recalled from stores nationwide.

Some Seoul residents also signed a petition protesting the book, which features scenes of incest and animal cruelty, for its "obscene and sexual content."

But following an outcry from the publisher over freedom of expression, the commission reread the book. In a meeting with Korean academics and novelists, they recognized its literary value and lifted the ban on Oct. 11.

Commission official Jang Tag-Hwan said Monday the group decided that the work — written by Sade while he was imprisoned in Paris' Bastille prison — also explored hard truths about mankind and "attempted to delve into the inner side of human greed."

The short-lived ban shows the force of Sade's writing, a French expert on 18th-century literature said.

"That (South Korea) ban so long after it was written shows the strength of the work — (it's) morally and sexually forceful," said Jean M. Goulemot, noting that the text was once forbidden in the United States and even France. "But we must ask today, what exactly are we scared of?"

In recent times, the work of Sade, whose name is the root of "sadism" and "sadist," has been translated into many languages and has frequently been censored.

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Thomas Adamson can be followed at http:/ /Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP

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Hyung-Jin Kim in Seoul contributed to this report