Overview

Venus in Furs is a erotic novel. The unnamed narrator tells his dreams to a friend, Severiy Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the best known of his works. The framing story concerns a man who dreams of speaking to Venus about love while she wears furs. This manuscript tells of a man, Severin von Kusiemski, so infatuated with a woman, Wanda von Dunajew, that he requests to be treated as her slave, and encourages her to treat him in progressively more degrading ways. ...
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Venus in Furs

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Overview

Venus in Furs is a erotic novel. The unnamed narrator tells his dreams to a friend, Severiy Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the best known of his works. The framing story concerns a man who dreams of speaking to Venus about love while she wears furs. This manuscript tells of a man, Severin von Kusiemski, so infatuated with a woman, Wanda von Dunajew, that he requests to be treated as her slave, and encourages her to treat him in progressively more degrading ways.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101640180
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 6/1/2000
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 749,226
  • File size: 225 KB

Meet the Author

Joachim Neugroschel has won three PEN translation awards and the French-American translation prize. He has also translated Thomas Mann's Death in Venice and Sacher-Masoch's Venus in Furs, both for Penguin Classics. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Joachim Neugroschel has won three PEN translation awards and the French-American translation prize. He has also translated Thomas Mann's Death in Venice and Sacher-Masoch's Venus in Furs, both for Penguin Classics. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Joachim Neugroschel has won three PEN translation awards and the French-American translation prize. He has also translated Thomas Mann's Death in Venice and Sacher-Masoch's Venus in Furs, both for Penguin Classics. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Read an Excerpt

INTRODUCTION TO THE 1921 EDITION

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 itsturn 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.

There is, however, another element in his work which has caused his name to become as eponym for an entire series of phenomena at one end of the psycho-sexual scale. This gives his productions a peculiar psychological value, though it cannot be denied also a morbid tinge that makes them often repellent. However, it is well to remember that nature is neither good nor bad, neither altruistic nor egoistic, and that it operates through the human psyche as well as through crystals and plants and animals with the same inexorable laws.

Sacher-Masoch was the poet of the anomaly now generally known as 'masochism'. By this is meant the desire on the part of the individual affected of desiring himself completely and unconditionally subject to the will of a person of the opposite sex, and being treated by this person as by a master, to be humiliated, abused, and tormented, even to the verge of death. This motive is treated in all its innumerable variations. As a creative artist Sacher-Masoch was, of course, on the quest for the absolute, and sometimes, when impulses in the human being assume an abnormal or exaggerated form, there is just for a moment a flash that gives a glimpse of the thing in itself.

If any defense were needed for the publication of work like Sacher-Masoch's it is well to remember that artists are the historians of the human soul and one might recall the wise and tolerant Montaigne's essay 'On the Duty of Historians' where he says, "One may cover over secret actions, but to be silent on what all the world knows, and things which have had effects which are public and of so much consequence is an inexcusable defect."

And the curious interrelation between cruelty and sex, again and again, creeps into literature. Sacher-Masoch has not created anything new in this. He has simply taken an ancient motive and developed it frankly and consciously, until, it seems, there is nothing further to say on the subject. To the violent attacks which his books met he replied in a polemical work, 'Uber den Wert der Kritik'.

It would be interesting to trace the masochistic tendency as it occurs throughout literature, but no more can be done than just to allude to a few instances. The theme recurs continually in the 'Confessions' of Jean Jacques Rousseau; it explains the character of the chevalier in Prevost's 'Manon l'Escault'. Scenes of this nature are found in Zola's 'Nana', in Thomas Otway's 'Venice Preserved', in Albert Juhelle's 'Les Pecheurs d'Hommes', in Dostojevski. In disguised and unrecognized form it constitutes the undercurrent of much of the sentimental literature of the present day, though in most cases the authors as well as the readers are unaware of the pathological elements out of which their characters are built.

In all these strange and troubled waters of the human spirit one might wish for something of the serene and simple attitude of the ancient world. Laurent Tailhade has an admirable passage in his 'Platres et Marbres', which is well worth reproducing in this connection:

"Toutefois, les Hellenes, dans, leurs cites de lumiere, de douceur et d'harmonie, avaient une indulgence qu'on peut nommer scientifique pour les troubles amoureux de l'esprit. S'ils ne regardaient pas l'aliene comme en proie a la vistation d'un dieu (idee orientale et fataliste), du moins ils savaient que l'amour est une sorte d'envoutement, une folie ou se manifeste l'animosite des puissances cosmiques. Plus tard, le christianisme enveloppa les ames de tenebres. Ce fut la grande nuite. L'Eglise condamna tout ce qui lui parut neuf ou menacant pour les dogmes implacable ui reduisaient le monde en esclavage."

Among Sacher-Masoch's works, 'Venus in Furs' is one of the most typical and outstanding. In spite of melodramatic elements and other literary faults, it is unquestionably a sincere work, written without any idea of titillating morbid fancies. One feels that in the hero many subjective elements have been incorporated, which are a disadvantage to the work from the point of view of literature, but on the other hand raise the book beyond the sphere of art, pure and simple, and make it one of those appalling human documents which belong, part to science and part to psychology. It is the confession of a deeply unhappy man who could not master his personal tragedy of existence, and so sought to unburden his soul in writing down the things he felt and experienced. The reader who will approach the book from this angle and who will honestly put aside moral prejudices and prepossessions will come away from the perusal of this book with a deeper understanding of this poor miserable soul of ours and a light will be cast into dark places that lie latent in all of us.

Sacher-Masoch's works have held an established position in European letters for something like half a century, and the author himself was made a chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the French Government in 1883, on the occasion of his literary jubilee. When several years ago cheap reprints were brought out on the Continent and attempts were made by various guardians of morality--they exist in all countries--to have them suppressed, the judicial decisions were invariably against the plaintiff and in favor of the publisher. Are Americans children that they must be protected from books which any European school-boy can purchase whenever he wishes? However, such seems to be the case, and this translation, which has long been in preparation, consequently appears in a limited edition printed for subscribers only. In another connection Herbert Spencer once used these words: "The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly, is to fill the world with fools." They have a very pointed application in the case of a work like 'Venus in Furs'.

F. S.

Atlantic City April, 1921

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 15 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 31, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Short and Sweet

    Venus in Furs is an amazing story about a man who falls madly in love with a woman and wishes for her to treat him cruelly. The more she actually does so, the more his love deepens for her. I found this book to be a complete page turner. It is definitely an interesting read and I think one of the most interesting things about this book is how long ago it was written and yet it still seems as though it could've been something that just happened yesterday. Definitely recommend this.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2008

    Venus in Furs

    This is one of my favorite books. As well as being well- written, it is also a stunning insight into the Dominant/submissive mindset, as well as other aspects of sexual and non-sexual relationships. This book must have been scandalous in its time and I believe it contains important insight even now.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2000

    Is this really fiction?

    The more I read this story, the more I began to suspect that it was true and not fiction. While it takes place in a long ago time and place, nevertheless it seems very accurate. I have been active in the BDSM scene for several years and this story is similar to many female-dominant/male-submissive relationships I have known. There is even an agreement and a contract between them, and you see that with many SM couples today. This is a hot book to read, especially when you consider that it just might be true.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2014

    Terrible book. The movie was also terrible and closed fast. Don'

    Terrible book. The movie was also terrible and closed fast. Don't waste your dollar.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2014

    Briarpaw

    Slunk in unnoticed. And gasped silently (ish) when she saw the two. She ran out and back to camp

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2014

    E


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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2014

    L

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2014

    Batvampire to Venompaw

    &hearts

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2013

    Viper

    Hmm. This is strange.. she growled

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted November 7, 2008

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    Posted August 14, 2013

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    Posted December 18, 2008

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    Posted December 20, 2013

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    Posted May 3, 2013

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