Born in Austria in 1836, Sacher-Masoch gained early fame for his writings on Galician life. However he is best known for his seminal work “Venus in Furs”. The term Masochism is derived from his surname and is use to describe sexual gratification derived from one’s own pain or humiliation.
But he was not just a writer of erotic fiction. His work spans a catalogue of writings on socialist and humanist ideals and he was known as a man who believed in utopian thinking.
His family were of Spanish descent and his Roman Catholic father was an Austrian police director who had married Charlotte, a Ukrainian noblewoman. During his working life, he was a professor who had studied law, history and mathematics. Fascinated by folklore and the culture of his Galician homeland, he soon turned his back on lecturing and became a man of letters. This decision led to his non-fiction writing soon being surpassed by his fictional works.
There was an idyllic quality to much of his work which were translated into Ukrainian, Polish, Russian and French.
In 1869, he embarked on a grand scheme to create a series of short stories entitled “Legacy of Cain”. “Venus in Furs” was one of only two that were completed. They marked a shifting towards more misogynistic themes which explored Sacher-Masoch’s fantasies and fetishes. His primary peccadillo being for dominant women clad in furs.
It was in that same year that Sacher-Masoch signed a contract with his then mistress, Baroness Fanny Pistor, which made him her slave for a period of six months. She was to wear furs as often as possible and especially so when she found herself feeling the creep of cruelty within her darkest soul. He liked to be called ‘Gregor’, and acted the role of servant for the Baroness. When they traveled to Italy, he traveled in a third-class compartment whilst she was holed up in the luxury of first-class. This experience later affected his marriage to Aurora von Rumelin, who did not find pleasure in the arrangement. They divorced eventually – their bond falling victim to Sacher-Masoch’s desire for excitement and stimulation. Her memoirs of the marriage were published in 1906 under the pseudonym Wanda v Dunajew, and revealed a man labouring under his ‘perversion’ and dominated by his sexual desire.
He died in 1895 after the deterioration of his mental health – his last years were spent under psychiatric care and there were rumours that he had ended his days in an asylum.
As a writer, he remained well-respected and his influence on erotic fiction rivals that of the infamous Marquis De Sade. It is no accident that his desires for domination are often put hand in hand with De Sade’s own desire to humiliate and inflict pain – sadism.
As a man, Sacher-Masoch was dominated by his sexual needs. As a writer, he touched on something essential about human nature – the need to submit to our desires and be controlled by the object of our fascination.
A copy of Venus in Furs is included in “Victorian Erotica 101” which is available FREE along with six other works of erotic fiction from that period by signing up HERE. I will be posting a review of the novel soon but would urge you to read it for yourself. It’s a fascinating read with some interesting ideas about dominant women and the men who adore them.
Until then, have a great time with your reading material,