Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sacher-Masoch Complains About Suffering

by Stephen J. Gertz

On the sixteenth of February, 1887, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the journalist and author whose  novel, Venus In Furs (1870), provided the first literary documentation of female sexual domination, male subjugation, and the erotic joy of of pain and suffering, wrote a letter to his friend, French novelist Alphonse Daudet.

The year before, in 1886, the first edition of Richard von Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis appeared. In this classic text on sexual psychopathology, Krafft-Ebing coined the term "masochism" to describe the behavior of those who are sexually aroused by pain and suffering. Sacher-Masoch thus became the first person in history to have a sexual variation named after him while still alive and published in a major book for all to read. 

And you think Facebook is fast and loose with your personal life.

So it is was with great, if unintended, mordant humor that Sacher-Masoch opened this letter to Daudet with the following:

“Still suffering ["toujours souffrant”], I could not come to the opening of Nuima Roumestan but send you my congratulations today...” 

And thus another entry into the Annals of Irony.

That said, if a masochist stubs their toe, it's not pleasant at all; it hurts like hell. It only hurts like heaven if the master or mistress commands the toe be stubbed, then sharply squeezes it afterward for loving emphasis. 

In all probability, Leopold was ill when he wrote this note. But still, if you have an eye for autograph material that  winks and makes your brain smile while appealing to your literary libido items rarely get cooler than this.

SACHER-MASOCH, Léopold von. Autograph Note, signed (“Sacher-Masoch”), to Alphonse Daudet. One page, in ink, on small blue “télégramme” form, addressed on the verso by Daudet. 12mo, Paris: 16 fevrier 1887.

Image courtesy of James Cummins Bookseller, who is currently offering this signed autograph letter, with our thanks.

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