August 30 , 2007

Venus in Furs


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.
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