The Sofa: A Moral Tale  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Le Sopha, conte moral is a 1742 libertine novel by Claude Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon.

An early example of fictional forniphilia, the story concerns a young courtier whose soul in a previous life was cursed to travel from sofa to sofa as a sofa in search of true love and not to be reincarnated in a human body until a man and a woman sincerely in love with each other had consummated their passion on "his" sofa.

Many of the characters in the novel are satirical portraits of influential and powerful Parisians of Crébillon’s time. For this reason the book was published anonymously and with a false imprint. Nevertheless, Crébillon was discovered to be the author and, as a consequence, he was exiled to a distance of fifty leagues from Paris.

Le Sopha was translated into English by Eliza Haywood and William Hatchett in 1742, and later by Bonamy Dobrée.



The tale features an oriental setting evocative of the Arabian Nights. The narrator, Amanzei, is transformed by the Brahma into sofa and only to regain his human form "when two people give each other on [it/him] their first fruits." The story's protagonists are the bored Sultan Shah Baham, a grandson of Scheherazade and Shahryār from the Arabian Nights, and the Sultana. The sopha recounts the scenes it witnessed by telling of seven couples. The last one, formed of two teenagers (Zeinida and Phlebas) whose young hearts innocently enjoy giving themselves pleasure, fulfills the condition for releasing Amanzei.

The various episodes - (9 chapters) including the longest about Zuleika - are all opportunities to ridicule hypocrisy in its various forms (worldly respectability, virtue, devotion).

A precursor to the novel was le Canapé couleur de feu.


After the publication of this novel, the author was exiled from Paris on April 7, 1742, because of the cynicism of the work and his "libertinage", but mainly because the protagonist Sultan Shah Baham was easily recognizable as a ridiculed Louis XV. Crebillon manages to re-enter the capital on July 22, arguing in his defense that the work was commissioned by Frederick II of Prussia and have been issued only after an indiscretion against his will.


See also

The Sofa: A Moral Tale (full text)[1]metamorphosis, objectification, transmogrification

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Sofa: A Moral Tale" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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