From within the horrible chamber of his cell, de Sade writes his Last Will and Testament. Beneath the shadow of the executioner’s hand he evokes the loyal ties of filial piety, calling upon his children to carry out his final wishes.
Sade first addresses the long term loyalty of Demoiselle Marie-Constance Reinelle (wife of Quesnet) as he expresses extreme gratitude, for the care and friendship she has shown him during the twenty-four years – from seventeen ninety to eighteen forty – she was with him. This great and loyal friendship is deeply rooted in the long-established order of old codes in which souls are eternally allied.
Secondly, Sade bequeaths to the Madame Quesnet his goods and chattels, to include his meager household furnishings, effects and linens, clothing books or papers, with the exception of his father’s papers, which he will label accordingly to be handed over to his children.
Thirdly, it is his intention that Madame Quesnet be in no way deprived any ‘rights, claims or levies’ that she may make upon his estate.
Fourthly, to the executor of his Last Will and Testament, he bequeaths a ring valued at twelve hundred livres, ‘in return for the trouble which the execution of the present act shall have occasioned him’
Surely, a man of this caliber who is busily preparing for the provision and continued well being of others after his death is not evil. Nor could he be feathering his own self-interest since he will not be present to defend himself.
Fifthly, De Sade forbids his body to ‘be opened’ and that it be kept ‘a full forty-eight hours in the chamber where he shall have died, before being nailed shut and escorted to Malmaison where he will be laid to rest. Dug by farmer tenant of Malmaison, under Monsieur Le Normand’s supervision he will be covered over and the ditch strewn with acorns to regenerate the earth.
Should the memory of De Sade have faded out as he had wished then we would be denied an even greater understanding of ourselves and while The Last Will and Testament expressly outlines specific requirements Sade would have us observe, the reality is that we have not intruded upon his space. Nor have we breached his Last Will and Testament by giving him the respect he deserves. Surely this highly organized and well-structured piece of writing demonstrates the mental processes of sane thinking and not a mad man as it demonstrates clear thinking and literary skill as De Sade carefully composes his writing using the complex arrangement of literary devices that include, visual and tactile imagery, psychological use of character and setting, soliloquy, and impressionism to construct his Last Will and Testament.
We stand before the open grave, peering into ‘the ditch’ the description of which echoes the impending execution of the Marquis as after his burial we hear the sound of acorns landing on the soft earth knowing that we shall have closed the pages to De Sade before traces of his grave disappear from the face of the earth but with his memory and indeed, his words, eternally etched upon our souls.
Of all the places it is the state prison that stands for the ultimate transgression of the status quo. It is also the state prison that challenges the subversive nature of every transgressive act that would uproot the oppressive foundation of individuals and subcultures who are marginalized by the dominant ruling classes. Like Fontevrault prison stands for the end of all liberty.
Fontevrault is the most disquieting place which gives Jean Genet ‘the strongest sense of anguish and affliction.’ Equally, Mettray is richly divested with the familiar and although it is a place of anguish and affliction it is a sanctuary in which young lives share in passionate bursts of desire as if by doing so they rise above the cruel environment in which they are trapped.
‘The convict with his thirty year sentence was the fulfillment of himself, the last transformation, which death would make permanent.’ Here is the darkest hour before the dawn, the dark heart of the dungeon that prepares its guests for death and indeed, drives its youth towards martyrdom. The strength of eternal conviction bound not by the promise of life but the rawness of love itself. There is no alarm to arrest or seize Genet’s senses and as he makes his secret promise that shall surely reprove him, Genet looks forward to the very act that will transform him completely. His pen flows over the page that is left dripping with richly interwoven imagery in which the reader can feel the cold as he is touched by Winter and experiences the moment in which he is bound in chains as the cards are shuffled and dealt by his companions, the guards. The mood is empty and a sense of abandonment strikes the reader as he realizes ‘I am only on page six?’ Again the reader is arrested and once captured finds himself being carried along like Genet in chains, by a force beyond the readers control. He could close the book and end the story here, now. Instead, he chooses to journey towards an unknown end, towards his final destination within the walls of the his beloved sanctuary.