First time When I heard about the Loab, goosebumps ran down my spine. The strange dead-eyed ghoul that started haunting the AI image generator last year, Loab reminded me of a demon I’ve been tracking down for years. One in a different environment, in a different era and under a different name: the Marquis de Sade.
This may seem like a non-obvious connection. The Marquis de Sade, one of the most infamous names in all of literature, was an 18th-century French aristocrat, a man known for his debauchery and evasion of authority, prison breaks and avoiding one’s own public execution in 1772. The Loab is in many ways a product of modernity, an accidental creation by the artist Supercomposite, who claimed that “discovered” it in the text-to-image generator with artificial intelligence in April last year. These two couldn’t be more different. However, what Sade’s letters have shown humanity about their unspoken passions, and what chatbots like ChatGPT and Google Bard reveal about similar interests, seems almost destined to cross paths. The question is, who will be ready for this?
Sade’s attempts to chronicle the forbidden desires of mankind – or at least his own – began, as you know, in the depths of the Bastille. In the late 1770s, while locked up after a series of scandalous offenses, Sade became obsessed with putting pen to paper, resulting in a work so obscene that its author was variously called “the freest spirit that ever lived” and “Apostle of Assassins”
His most famous attempt was 120 days of Sodom written on a 40 foot scroll. Sade called the novel “the most impure fairy tale ever written since the creation of the world.” It tells the story of four wealthy degenerates who lock young underlings in a castle and subject them to months of increasing depravity: incest, bestiality, coprophilia, necrophilia, disembowelment, amputation, cannibalism and more. By the end of the novel, the castle is covered in blood and body parts. Through his writing, Sade became so closely associated with cruelty that he inspired the term sadism– Deriving pleasure from pain.
While Sade believed the scroll was destroyed during the storming of the Bastille in 1789, it actually went on a journey across the continent that involved underground erotica collectors, pioneering sex researchers, Nazi book burnings, scandalous surrealist art, audacious robbery , international court battles. and lately massive handwritten scandal in France. In fact, because of its terrible subject matter and the upheavals it has been associated with, the scroll is considered cursed by some authorities.
Cursed or not, the very existence of the novel is a mystery. Why would anyone engage in such a Herculean effort at a time when the results can never be made public? Who exactly was the person behind this? Was Sade a revolutionary seeking to expose the rotten core of the aristocracy he was born into? Or was he simply an unrepentant criminal, chronicling his own atrocities, committed or merely dreamed?