~knockin on de sade’s door~

May 2nd, 2008


We traveled to many villages and towns in Provence and the Luberon Valley–there was Avignon, home of Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes), called by poet Petrarch the “most foul and stinking city on Earth” (its not, but it sure is touristy!), and where we saw a couple waltzing in the morning sunlight on Pont d’Avignon.


Or Aix-en-Provence (called simply, Ax), home of many fountains and a fine open market on lovely main drag Cours Mirabeau. There is L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, another market town, this one wound through with canals, sweet ducks, and huge, moss-covered water wheels, and the Roman town of Orange (ruins, more ruins!), and swanky Nimes (the city that brought the big straw hat that saved me.)


We saw the very red clay cliffs of Roussillon, and the crazy stacked and teetering village of Gordes (both gorgeous, but too touristy, shops, tour buses, not at all Enchanting on the Cicada Scale…)
Instead, I want to tell you about Lacoste, a tiny hill-perched village dominated by the ruins of what was once the chateau of the Marquis de Sade.


De Sade loved baked apples, daily baths, and (the game) musical chairs. More than these, he loved his “only home,” a chateau in Protestant Lacoste that hovers over the gorgeous valleys of the Vaucluse.


Donatien Alphonse François de Sade moved with his wife and children to the family estate—which he had remodeled to include a theater, a secret library for his um…curiosities, and a labyrinth of evergreens–in 1771 to escape the ghastly reputation incurred in Paris by his um…curiosities.


La Coste was to Sade what Walden was to Henry David Thoreau, what Combray was to Marcel Proust, what Amherst was to Emily Dickinson — the matrix of all inspiration and perhaps also of all delusions, the quintessential Site-as-Muse.
~Francine du Plessix Gray


There, he let loose his feudal desires along with the rest, and eventually wound up in jail, where he fretted about the quince, cherry, almond, and pear he had planted, “How is my poor cherry orchard? See to it that the park be well tended … tell them to replace that little hedge of hazel-nut trees.” From jail he also learned in 1792 that the estate had been sacked in the Revolution.


By 1801 he was stuck in an asylum by Napolean who sited the cause as his “libertine dementia.” There he staged several of his (very dull) plays, with the inmates as actors, and there he died, in 1814. His son had all his remaining unpublished manuscripts burned, including the multi-volumed, legendary Les Journées de Florbelle.
But the remains remain. As does the delightful addition of the “de Sade Café,” where we drank Rosé while tucked under an umbrella and Ali discreetly fed bits of lamb to a happy dog. Our view.


Some of the original chateau is still intact and occupied (I was imagining the museum), and I did in fact knock on De Sade’s giant, iron-studded castle door, but no one answered…


2 Responses to “~knockin on de sade’s door~”

  1. Terry says:

    Lacoste was also the home of Diska – a American expat scultptress. Some of her stone pieces now grace Chez Savage.
    You’ve seen them, Kim.

  2. kim says:

    Ah Chez Savage! A place of refinement and {undiscovered} treasures…are they on the mantle perhaps?

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