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Venus in Furs
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
116 pages, $7.99
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch didn't invent the sexual practice that bears his name, but he did popularize it in this short novel. An example of the found-manuscript manner of storytelling, Venus in Furs is framed by an unnamed narrator telling his dreams to his friend Severin. In those dreams, the narrator discusses love with Venus while she wears furs.
Severin suggests the narrator can break this obsession by reading a manuscript called Memoirs of a Suprasensual Man. That manuscript tells the story of a man who is so infatuated with a woman that he asks to be her slave.
At first, she doesn't understand the request, but after humoring him, she grows to accept and appreciate the idea, eventually embracing it enthusiastically. They travel to Florence, with the man assuming a generic servant's name as he falls completely into the role of her servant. In Florence, Wanda treats him brutally as a servant, and recruits a trio of women to dominate him.
The relationship comes to a crisis when she meets another man, to whom she would like to submit.
This is a passionate and powerful portrayal of one man's struggle to enlighten and instruct himself and others in the realm of desire. It remains a classic literary statement on sexual submission and control.