Written by the Marquis de Sade while he was in prison and then lost for more than a century until being found again in 1905. It is one of Sade's most infamous works, and deservedly so despite being only partially completed. The plot concerns four corrupt libertine noblemen (the Duc, the Bishop, The President, and the Durcet) who spend 120 sex-filled days with their four wives/daughters, sixteen kidnapped children, four aged prostitutes, four hideous maids, and eight well-endowed young men. It all basically plays out like an extended Aristocrats joke with no punchline.
See Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom for the film adaptation.
- Abusive Parents: The Libertines. Curval stands out for hospitalizing his daughter after she saved a little girl from being forced to please Curval.
- Author Appeal: It's sometimes hard to tell what parts are Sade's fetishes and what parts are him just including every fetish he could think of. It's pretty clear he has an ass-fetish, though.
- Author Filibuster: Or Character Filibuster, depending on how much you believe Sade agreed with his characters
- The Caligula: All four of the Libertines.
- Card-Carrying Villain: The Libertines are all well-aware of their shaky moral status.
- Depraved Bisexual
- Dirty Old Monk: The monks in Duclos' past.
- Evil Feels Good: All four of the libertines firmly believe this.
- Evil Old Folks: Curval and a few of the maids
- For the Evulz: Blangis actually tells one of his victims "If it were just it would fail to give us an erection."
- Gallows Humor
- Gorn: This is probably the goriest of all of Sade's work, particularly toward the end.
- Hollywood Atheist: All four of the libertines are atheists, and have tremendous amounts of scorn towards religion and the very concept of God and a benevolent universe. Yes, even the Bishop.
- The Ingenue: The kidnapped children and three out of four of the wives. Julie, the President's wife is a bit more libertine. Which is why she survives
- Incest Is Relative: Every one of the libertines has had sex with his daughters.
- Karma Houdini: The villains walk away free.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: The libertines themselves do this surprisingly, by torturing the evil old women who have been collaborating. When one of them thwarts a girl's escape attempt to save her own ass, Blangis tortures her anyway and laughs off her screaming that it is unjust. Normally this would be cruel, except the four women are monsters themselves who have gleefully helped torture innocent people. Now they are essentially getting their just deserts.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Sade provides a helpful section at the end of the prologue detailing the personalities and appearances of each of the many major characters. According to his notes, he himself needed this list to keep track of them all
- Meaningful Nickname: Bum Cleaver. Three guesses as to why he's called that, and the first two don't count.
- Nightmare Fetishist: The narrator, except when he remembers that he's supposed to be horrified by the goings-on.
- Parental Incest: The Libertines have had sex with their own daughters
- Villain Protagonists: The libertines.