“Venus in Furs” by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
(First publication: 1870 / This edition: Roads Publishing 2015)
taken with dried statice flowers I got two days ago and still-hot French-pressed coffee
I had a vague feeling that such a thing as beauty without thorns
and love of the sense without torment does exist. (p.96)
Venus in Furs… I really had no idea what to expect when I ordered it on Book Depository. To be honest, I just wanted a book from ROADS Publishing because they all look so elegant! And since I am usually attracted to sepia or b/w photography, the cover of this one appealed to me more than others. (It is a photo of a “strong and solitary female bone collector”.) So, yes, I’m
sometimes always guilty of judging a book by its cover.
SO. How to describe this book…..it’s pretty intense, but can be comical depending on how serious you want to take it. (But I guess that’s with everything.) It reminded me of “50 Shades of Grey”, except Christian Grey is a woman who always wears fur when she wants to “play” and Ana Steele is a masochistic man who keeps begging for it. Ana is treated like a slave, literally, inside and outside the bedroom. A whip is the only instrument that they seem satisfied with. Christian Grey also has a team of servants to “help” out when extra hands are needed for bondage and whatnot. The scenes are taken in various cities around Europe, like a villa in Florence, and all set in the 19th century.
Sorry for comparing classic literature to 50 Shades but…it was all that came into mind. I tried.
But this line (from Venus in Furs) can totally be appropriate 50 Shades as well: ‘I could escape and didn’t want to; I was ready to endure everything as soon as she threatened to set me free.’ (p.80)
Aside from all the BDSM issues, I was surprised at how modern the writer’s thoughts were. It was first published in 1870, but I can easily imagine it as the baseline for a movie or book about some melancholic love story today—power-plays, jealousy, infidelity, “how to keep your man/woman”, control, etc.
It’s a pretty short book, and I did enjoy it. I was a bit nervous at the beginning because there were apparitions and strange, dark dreams and whatnot (easily scared that I am), but it was overall enjoyable. How the author described the power of women and power-play is captivating.
Here are some of my favorite lines:
Never feel secure with the woman you love, for there are more dangers in woman’s nature than you imagine. Women are neither as good as their admirers and defenders maintain, nor as bad as their enemies make them out to be. Woman’s character is characterlessness. The best woman will momentarily go down into the mire, and the worst woman unexpectedly rises to deeds of greatness and goodness and puts to shame those that despise her. No woman is so good or so bad but that at any moment is she capable of the most diabolical as well as of the most divine, of the filthiest as well as of the purest, thoughts, emotions, and actions. In spite of all the advances of civilisation, woman has remained as she came out of the hand of nature. She has the nature of a savage, who is faithful and faithless, magnanimous or cruel, according to the impulse that dominates at the moment. Throughout history it has always been a serious deep culture which has produced moral character. Man, even which is selfish or evil, always follows principles, woman never follows anything but impulses. Don’t ever forget that, and never feel secure with the woman you love. (p.68)
Love knows no virtue, no profit; it loves and forgives and suffers everything because it must. It is not our judgement that leads us; it is neither the advantages nor the faults which we discover that make us abandon ourselves, or that repel us. It is a sweet, soft, enigmatic power that drives us on. We cease to think, to feel, to will; we let ourselves be carried away by it, and ask not whither. (p.75)
I now had the leisure to muse about the riddle of human existence, and about its greatest riddle of all: woman. (p.86)