Friday, January 05, 2007

we don't need no music

Venus in Furs (first published in 1870 under the title Venus im Pelz in German) is possibly the best known of its author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's works. The novel was part of an epic series which Sacher-Masoch envisioned which he called “The Heritage of Cain,” which was to have six parts, which was to contain 6 stories each on the subjects of: Love, Property, The State, War, Work, and Death. “Venus in Furs” was part of Love, which contained five additional stories.

The novel draws themes and character inspiration heavily from Sacher-Masoch’s own life. Wanda von Dunajew (the woman in which the novel centralizes around) was named after Fanny Pistor, who was an emerging literary writer. The two met when Pistor contacted Sacher-Masoch, under the fictitious title of a noble Baroness Bogdanoff for suggestions on improvement of her works, to make them suitable for publication. Inventing such a title for herself is telling of the fanciful aspect of her character that would make possible the charming and outrageous nature of their love affair.

On December 8, 1869 Leopold and Fanny signed a contract making Leopold von Sacher-Masoch the slave of Fanny Pistor Bogdanoff for the period of six months, with the stipulation, doubtlessly at Sacher-Masoch’s suggestion, that the Baroness wear furs as often as possible, especially when she was in a cruel mood. Sacher-Masoch was given the alias of “Gregor,” and fitted out in disguise as the servant of the Baroness. The two traveled by train to Italy. As in the novel, he traveled in the third class compartment, while she had a seat in first class, arriving in Venice (Florence, in the novel), where they were not known, and would not arouse suspicion.[1]

Sacher-Masoch's fantasies and fetishes were attempted with all his mistresses and wives. After his love affair with Fanny Pistor, Sacher-Masoch married his first wife, Aurora Rümelin, and pressured her into living out the experience of his book "Venus in Furs", against her preferences. This marriage was an utter failure and he soon got a divorce and married his assistant. In his late 50s, his mental health began to deteriorate and he spent the last years of his life in a pyschiatric asylum. According to official reports, he died in Lindheim, Germany in 1895; however some claim that he actually died in an asylum in Mannheim in 1905.


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