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Venus In Furs
by Leopold Ritter Von Sacher-masoch, Trans. By Fernanda Savage
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A timeless volume, recommended for bed-sitting aesthetes everywhere.
John Strausbaugh, New York Press
The quintessential Sacher-Masoch novel, in which he most succinctly sets out his obsessions.
From Independent Publisher
Venus in Furs (or essentially, "The Education of a Young Woman') is novelist and poet von Sacher-Masoch's most sublime text on the devotion of "masochism"-emotional, psychological, sexual-and it is a masterpiece of persuasion. Its protagonist is an educated and devout man given to whips and ideals. Severin von Kusiemski's is an unusual (and mystical) pedagogy and his Ideal is the cruel woman in furs who will allow him to be her slave; for in his rapturous acquiescence, and in his conscious guidance of both his own and his mistress' will, Severin will have penetrated into the beating heart of a solitary man's deepest and most profound desires: to merge flesh with spirit, birth with death, Heaven with Hell. This classic late-nineteenth-century novel-surprisingly, rarely if ever made so accessible to English-speaking readers-is not, as popular rumor would have it, simply a lurid tale of obsessive obscenity. Nor is it merely a Victorian dream of antique decadence. It remains a deeply felt, intelligent and powerful morality play of our time, marvelously written, and it leaves one, finally, to question his/her presumptions and ambivalence toward torment, submission, and ecstasy. This edition includes an intriguing selection of letters between von Sacher-Masoch and a young correspondent that illuminates the real-life parallel of von Sacher-Masoch's ideals and that of his oeuvre. Venus in Furs and Selected Letters is, in all, a passionate portrayal of one man's indomitable struggle to enlighten and instruct himself and his world in the realm of desire. A timeless volume, highly recommended for bed-sitting aesthetes everywhere.
"And yet a restless, always unsatisfied craving for the nudity of paganism," she interrupted, "but that love, which is the highest joy, which is divine simplicity itself, is not for you moderns, you children of reflection. It works only evil in you. As soon as you wish to be natural, you become common. To you nature seems something hostile; you have made devils out of the smiling gods of Greece, and out of me a demon. You can only exorcise and curse me, or slay yourselves in bacchantic madness before my altar.
Text: English, German (translation)
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch was born in Lemberg, Austrian Galicia, on January 27, 1836. He studied jurisprudence at Prague and Graz, and in 1857 became a teacher at the latter university. He published several historical works, but soon gave up his academic career to devote himself wholly to literature. For a number of years he edited the international review, Auf der Hohe, at Leipzig, but later removed to Paris, for he was always strongly Francophile. His last years he spent at Lindheim in Hesse, Germany, where he died on March 9, 1895. In 1873 he married Aurora von Rumelin, who wrote a number of novels under the pseudonym of Wanda von Dunajew, which it is interesting to note is the name of the heroine of Venus in Furs. Her sensational memoirs which have been the cause of considerable controversy were published in 1906. During his career as writer an endless number of works poured from Sacher-Masoch's pen. Many of these were works of ephemeral journalism, and some of them unfortunately pure sensationalism, for economic necessity forced him to turn his pen to unworthy ends. There is, however, a residue among his works which has a distinct literary and even greater psychological value. His principal literary ambition was never completely fulfilled. It was a somewhat programmatic plan to give a picture of contemporary life in all its various aspects and interrelations under the general title of the Heritage of Cain. This idea was probably derived from Balzac's Comedie Humaine. The whole was to be divided into six subdivisions with the general titles Love, Property, Money, The State, War, and Death. Each of these divisions in its turn consisted of six novels, of which the last was intended to summarize the author's conclusions and to present his solution for the problems set in the others. This extensive plan remained unachieved, and only the first two parts, Love_ and _Property, were completed. Of the other sections only fragments remain. The present novel, Venus in Furs, forms the fifth in the series, Love. The best of Sacher-Masoch's work is characterized by a swift narration and a graphic representation of character and scene and a rich humor. The latter has made many of his shorter stories dealing with his native Galicia little masterpieces of local color.
About the Author
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836-1895) was born in the Galician city of Lemberg. A novelist and poet, he is also known for his Stories of the Russian Court.
Joachim Neugroschel, who has also translated Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha and Thomas Mann's Death in Venice for Penguin Classics, is the recipient of three PEN translation awards and a French-American translation prize.
Larry Wolff is a professor of history at Boston College.
"Tread me underfoot!" I exclaimed, and flung myself face to the floor before her. "I hate all this play-acting," said Wanda impatiently. "Well, then maltreat me seriously." An uncanny pause. "Severin, I warn you for the last time," began Wanda. "If you love me, be cruel towards me," I pleaded with upraised eyes. "If I love you," repeated Wanda. "Very well!" She stepped back and looked at me with a sombre smile. "Be then my slave, and know what it means to be delivered into the hands of a woman." And at that moment she gave me a kick. "How do you like that, slave?"
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