Customer Review

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tender, loving but brutal. One mans ideal?, 25 July 2006
This review is from: Venus in Furs (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
This 19th Century classic seems to be considered the beginning of sexual exploration within the mainstream, indeed it is considered that its author Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch gave his name to masochism (although not consciously).

The story is told through a journal of one man: Severin von Kusiemski, a man of good standing within the community but who harbours a deep routed desire to become the slave of a goddess wearing fur. His choice coining her the Venus in Furs is no coincidence for he worships at statues of Venus herself and when he stumbles upon Wanda von Dunajew he feels his search is at an end.

Wanda is for me the far more fascinating of the two characters and arguable would have been a far more interesting character to use as the point of view for this novel. She has depth through the need to explore a chilling dark side that before Severin she was unaware of but you get the feeling that whole time this dark side is a façade, a front that doesn't truly exist and in fact it is her submitting to Severin in her quest to make him happy. This paradox explodes wonderfully towards the end of the book and (for me) you truly see how unprepared Severin is for the path he has chosen, Wanda concocts one last punishment for Severin but again you can clearly see the great love that has gone into doing just that - a women unhappy in her role but seemingly unwilling not to continue for fear of losing the man she loves, until finally he pushes her too far.

I felt the pace of the book was off, we fall far too quickly into the depraved relationship without enough of the build up work, it's like passing your driving test and hoping into a Ferrari - no satisfaction if you can't prang the Metro first. I also felt that oddly the writing of Severin to be a little stunted as well, if you consider this to be deliberate to show how the author feels so much more for Wanda than for himself it can be explained but even so it can be a little disappointing.

I can honestly say I truly enjoyed this novel and not just for the historically significance of the work, but for the tenderness and care that Sacher-Masoch (some what clumsily at times) attempts to instil in the relationship between the books two chief protagonists. Could it have been better? Absolutely. Are today's books on the same subject far more graphic? I would imagine so. Is this worth the read? Definitely, I doubt many works of this subject matter could come close to Sacher-Masoch's work, no matter how rough round the edges it may be.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 29 Sep 2009 07:57:33 BDT
Alexa says:
A view very much in agreement with my own reading of the work. It seems to me that the Amazon summary completely misunderstands the book! I would add that it is notable how little Severin is interested in satisfying Wanda's actual desires; nevertheless she, because of her love for him, attempts to fulfil his fantasy of her. She pushes him further and further in an attempt to get him to reject the fantasy, but instead he embraces it, until she despairs and leaves him for a man who does not love her, but fulfils HER ideal.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Sep 2009 18:16:11 BDT
Chris Chalk says:
Very fair point; you begin to wonder if the author is doing this deliberately or whether it is unintended. Either way you are spot on in commenting on how little interest Severin has in satisfying Wanda's needss.

Good point!

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jul 2011 01:38:26 BDT
Last edited by the author on 12 Jul 2011 01:39:03 BDT
Good review, this may sound odd but I read online that Sacher-Mosoch later wrote for a progressive literary journal on subjects such as female emancipation and, in the final pages, Severin states that woman is either slave or despot, when she should be a companion (to paraphrase) and I agree with the first post in the discussion (Alexa) that Severin's greatest flaw is perhaps allowing his desires and imagination to get out of control without realising that Wanda might have a sexual fantasy life/desires of her own.
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