Leopold von Sacher-Masoch

Last updated

Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, portrait 3.jpg
Born(1836-01-27)27 January 1836
Died9 March 1895(1895-03-09) (aged 59)
Lindheim near Altenstadt, German Empire
OccupationWriter, journalist
Known for Masochism
Notable work
"Venus in Furs"

Leopold Ritter [1] von Sacher-Masoch (German: [ˈleːopɔlt fɔn ˈzaxɐ ˈmaːzɔx] ; 27 January 1836 – 9 March 1895) was an Austrian nobleman, writer and journalist, who gained renown for his romantic stories of Galician life. The term masochism is derived from his name, invented by his contemporary, the Austrian psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing. Masoch did not approve of this use of his name. [2]


During his lifetime, Sacher-Masoch was well known as a man of letters, in particular a utopian thinker who espoused socialist and humanist ideals in his fiction and non-fiction. Most of his works remain untranslated into English. Until recently, his novella Venus in Furs was his only book commonly available in English, but an English translation by William Holmes of Die Gottesmutter was released in 2015 as The Mother of God.


Early life and education

Von Sacher-Masoch was born in the city of Lemberg (now Lviv, Ukraine), the capital of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, at the time a province of the Austrian Empire, into the Roman Catholic family of an Austrian civil servant, [3] Leopold Johann Nepomuk Ritter von Sacher, and Charlotte von Masoch, a Ukrainian noblewoman. [4] The father later combined his surname with his wife's 'von Masoch', at the request of her family (she was the last of the line). Von Sacher served as a Commissioner of the Imperial Police Forces in Lemberg, and he was recognised with a new title of nobility as Sacher-Masoch awarded by the Austrian Emperor. [5]

Leopold studied law, history and mathematics at Graz University (where he obtained a doctorate in history in 1856), and after graduating he became a lecturer there.[ citation needed ]

Galician storyteller

His early, non-fictional publications dealt mostly with Austrian history. At the same time, Masoch turned to the folklore and culture of his homeland, Galicia. Soon he abandoned lecturing and became a free man of letters. Within a decade his short stories and novels prevailed over his historical non-fiction works, though historical themes continued to imbue his fiction. [5]

Panslavist ideas were prevalent in Masoch's literary work, and he found a particular interest in depicting picturesque types among the various ethnicities that inhabited Galicia. From the 1860s to the 1880s he published a number of volumes of Jewish Short Stories, Polish Short Stories, Galician Short Stories, German Court Stories and Russian Court Stories. His works were published in translation in Ukrainian, Polish, Russian and French.[ citation needed ]

The Legacy of Cain

In 1869, Sacher-Masoch conceived a grandiose series of short stories under the collective title Legacy of Cain that would represent the author's aesthetic Weltanschauung . The cycle opened with the manifesto The Wanderer that brought out misogynist themes that became peculiar to Masoch's writings. Of the six planned volumes, only the first two were ever completed. By the middle of the 1880s, Masoch abandoned the Legacy of Cain. Nevertheless, the published volumes of the series included Masoch's best-known stories, and of them, "Venus in Furs" (published 1870) is the most famous today. The novella expressed Sacher-Masoch's fantasies and fetishes (especially for dominant women wearing fur). He did his best to live out his fantasies with his mistresses and wives.


A Sacher-Masoch compilation published in 1901 Sacher Masoch compilation 1901.jpg
A Sacher-Masoch compilation published in 1901

Sacher-Masoch edited the Leipzig-based monthly literary magazine Auf der Höhe. Internationale Review (At the Pinnacle. International Review), which was published from October 1881 to September 1885. This was a progressive magazine aimed at tolerance and integration for Jews in Saxony, as well as articles on women's education and suffrage.[ citation needed ]

In his later years, he worked against local antisemitism through an association for adult education called the Oberhessischer Verein für Volksbildung (OVV), founded in 1893 with his second wife, Hulda Meister, who had also been his assistant for some years. [6]

Private life and inspiration for "Venus in Furs"

Fanny Pistor was an emerging literary writer. She met Sacher-Masoch after she contacted him, under the assumed name and fictitious title of Baroness Bogdanoff, for suggestions on improving her writing to make it suitable for publication.

On 8 December 1869, Sacher-Masoch and Pistor, who was by then his mistress, signed a contract making him her slave for a period of six months, with the stipulation that the Baroness wear furs as often as possible, especially when she was in a cruel mood. Sacher-Masoch took the alias of "Gregor", a stereotypical male servant's name, and assumed a disguise as the servant of the Baroness. The two travelled by train to Italy. As in "Venus in Furs", he traveled in the third-class compartment, while she had a seat in first-class, arriving in Venice (Florence, in the novel), where they were not known, and would not arouse suspicion.[ citation needed ]

Sacher-Masoch pressured his first wife – Aurora von Rümelin, whom he married in 1873 – to live out the experience of the book, against her preferences. Sacher-Masoch found his family life to be unexciting, and eventually got a divorce and married his assistant.[ citation needed ]

Later years

In 1874, Masoch wrote the novel Die Ideale unserer Zeit (The Ideals of Our Time), an attempt to give a portrait of German society during its Gründerzeit period. [7]

In his late fifties, his mental health began to deteriorate, and he spent the last years of his life under psychiatric care. According to official reports, he died in Lindheim nearAltenstadt, in 1895. It is also claimed that he died in an asylum in Mannheim in 1905. [8]

Sacher-Masoch is the great-uncle of Eva von Sacher-Masoch, Baroness Erisso, mother of British singer and actress Marianne Faithfull. [9]


The term masochism was coined in 1886 by the Austrian psychiatrist Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing (1840–1902) in his book Psychopathia Sexualis :

...I feel justified in calling this sexual anomaly "Masochism", because the author Sacher-Masoch frequently made this perversion, which up to his time was quite unknown to the scientific world as such, the substratum of his writings. I followed thereby the scientific formation of the term "Daltonism", from Dalton, the discoverer of colour-blindness.
During recent years facts have been advanced which prove that Sacher-Masoch was not only the poet of Masochism, but that he himself was afflicted with the anomaly. Although these proofs were communicated to me without restriction, I refrain from giving them to the public. I refute the accusation that "I have coupled the name of a revered author with a perversion of the sexual instinct", which has been made against me by some admirers of the author and by some critics of my book. As a man, Sacher-Masoch cannot lose anything in the estimation of his cultured fellow-beings simply because he was afflicted with an anomaly of his sexual feelings. As an author, he suffered severe injury so far as the influence and intrinsic merit of his work is concerned, for so long and whenever he eliminated his perversion from his literary efforts he was a gifted writer, and as such would have achieved real greatness had he been actuated by normally sexual feelings. In this respect he is a remarkable example of the powerful influence exercised by the vita sexualis be it in the good or evil sense over the formation and direction of man's mind. [10]

Sacher-Masoch was not pleased with Krafft-Ebing's assertions. Nevertheless, details of Masoch's private life were obscure until Aurora von Rümelin's memoirs, Meine Lebensbeichte (My Life Confession; 1906), were published in Berlin under the pseudonym Wanda v. Dunajew. The following year, a French translation, Confession de Ma Vie (1907) by "Wanda von Sacher-Masoch", was printed in Paris by Mercure de France. An English translation of the French edition was published as The Confessions of Wanda von Sacher-Masoch (1991) by RE/Search Publications.

Selected bibliography

See also


  1. Regarding personal names: Ritter was a title before 1919, but now is regarded as part of the surname. It is translated as Knight . Before the August 1919 abolition of nobility as a legal class, titles preceded the full name when given (Graf Helmuth James von Moltke). Since 1919, these titles, along with any nobiliary prefix (von, zu, etc.), can be used, but are regarded as a dependent part of the surname, and thus come after any given names (Helmuth James Graf von Moltke). Titles and all dependent parts of surnames are ignored in alphabetical sorting. There is no equivalent feminine form.
  2. Alison M. Moore, Sexual Myths of Modernity: Sadism, Masochism and Historical Teleology, (Lexington Books, 2016) ISBN   9781498530736 [ page needed ]
  3. "City in Ukraine Tied to Masochism Finds Link Painful, Sure, but Some Like It" by Andrew Higgins, The New York Times , 14 November 2014
  4. The cultural legacy of Sacher-Masoch Archived 3 November 2020 at the Wayback Machine Nataliya Kosmolinska and Yury Okhrimenko
  5. 1 2 Sacher-Masoch, Leopold Von (18 January 2017). Venus in Furs. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN   978-1-5426-1563-1.
  6. Hyams, Barbara (2000). "Causal Connections: The Case of Sacher-Masoch". In Michael C. Finke; Carl Niekerk (eds.). One Hundred Years of Masochism: Literary Texts, Social and Cultural Contexts. Rodopi. pp. 139–154. ISBN   90-420-0657-9 . Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  7. "Leopold von Sacher-Masoch". know.cf. Retrieved 15 March 2020.[ dead link ]
  8. Weinberg, Thomas S. (1992). "Sacher-Masoch, Leopold Ritter von". In Bullough, Vern L.; Bullough, Bonnie (eds.). Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia . Garland Publishing. ISBN   0-8240-7972-8.
  9. "Marianne keeps the Faith – In concert: Marianne Faithfull". The Vancouver Province . 29 May 2007. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  10. Von Krafft-Ebing, Richard (1939). Psychopathia Sexualis: A Medico-Forensic Study. Elsevier Science. p. 132. ISBN   978-1-4831-9410-3 . Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  11. Die Ideale unserer Zeit, novel in four books, Vienna 1874 (facsimile at Austrian National Library)
  12. Leopold von Sacher-Masoch; Petro Haivoronskyi (2016). Bloody Wedding in Kyiv: Two Tales of Olha, Kniahynia of Kyivan Rus. Translated by Svitlana Chоrnomorets. Sydney: Sova Books. ISBN   9780987594372. (about Olga of Kiev)

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Masochism is the practice of seeking pain because it is pleasurable, named for Leopold von Sacher-Masoch from Lviv.

Richard von Krafft-Ebing Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, and nobleman

Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing was an Austro-German psychiatrist and author of the foundational work Psychopathia Sexualis (1886).


Algolagnia is a sexual tendency which is defined by deriving sexual pleasure and stimulation from physical pain, often involving an erogenous zone. Studies conducted indicate differences in how the brains of those with algolagnia interpret nerve input.

Sadomasochism Giving or receiving of pleasure from acts involving the receipt or infliction of pain or humiliation

Sadomasochism is the giving and receiving of pleasure from acts involving the receipt or infliction of pain or humiliation. Practitioners of sadomasochism may seek sexual gratification from their acts. While the terms sadist and masochist refer respectively to one who enjoys giving and receiving pain, practitioners of sadomasochism may switch between activity and passivity.

Agalmatophilia is a paraphilia involving sexual attraction to a statue, doll, mannequin or other similar figurative object. The attraction may include a desire for actual sexual contact with the object, a fantasy of having sexual encounters with an animate or inanimate instance of the preferred object, the act of watching encounters between such objects, or sexual pleasure gained from thoughts of being transformed or transforming another into the preferred object. Agalmatophilia may also encompass Pygmalionism, which denotes love for an object of one's own creation. Agalmatophilia is a form of Object sexuality.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to BDSM:

<i>Seduction: The Cruel Woman</i>

Seduction: The Cruel Woman is a 1985 West German film, directed by Elfi Mikesch and Monika Treut, who both also wrote the screenplay. Wanda is played by Mechthild Großmann. The film was inspired by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's Venus in Furs.

Psychosexual disorder is a sexual problem that is psychological, rather than physiological in origin. "Psychosexual disorder" was a term used in Freudian psychology. The term of psychosexual disorder used by the TAF for homosexuality as a reason to ban the LGBT people from military service.

Sardax is the pseudonym for an English FemDom artist based in London. Sardax's ink drawings and watercolours were a hobby that has now evolved into two published books, a magazine, limited prints and commissioned pieces. He has also created book covers plus countless book and magazine illustrations in addition to graphic art for logos, on-line banners, flyers and posters. Sardax has a website, www.sardax.com, for devotees of female domination. There is some free content, but the majority is accessible by paid membership only. A search on the web will yield multiple sites with Sardax artwork despite the author's copyright.

Dominance and submission Erotic roleplay involving the submission of one person to another

Dominance and submission is a set of behaviours, customs, and rituals involving the submission of one person to another in an erotic episode or lifestyle. It is a subset of BDSM. This form of sexual contact and pleasure has been shown to please a minority of people.

The Legacy of Cain is an unfinished cycle of novellas by the 19th-century Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. His original plan was to group various novellas into 6 volumes, each of which was titled according to its central theme; those are "Love", "Property", "State", "War", "Work" and "Death". Only the first two volumes, "Love" (1870) and "Property" (1877), were completed. By the middle of the 1880s, Masoch abandoned the grandiose idea of The Legacy of Cain, although some of the novellas intended for the cycle had been published.

Psychopathia Sexualis: eine Klinisch-Forensische Studie is a 1886 book by Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing and one of the first texts about sexual pathology. The book details a wide range of paraphilias, and focuses on male homosexuality. Krafft-Ebing also coined the terms "sadism and masochism" in the book.

<i>Venus in Furs</i> Novel written by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch

Venus in Furs is a novella by the Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, and the best known of his works. The novel was to be part of an epic series that Sacher-Masoch envisioned called Legacy of Cain. Venus in Furs was part of Love, the first volume of the series. It was published in 1870.

Eva von Sacher-Masoch, Baroness Erisso was an Austrian aristocrat, great-niece of utopian humanist author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836–1895) whose father Leopold Johann Nepomuk Ritter von Sacher, combined his own with the von Masoch Slovak aristocratic title of his wife when his loyal services as Commissioner of the Imperial Police Forces in Lemberg were rewarded with a new title, Sacher-Masoch , by the Austrian Emperor.

BDSM in culture and media Stories, books and media about bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism

BDSM is a frequent theme in culture and media, including in books, films, television, music, magazines, public performances and online media.

Heinrich Kaan was a 19th-century physician known for his seminal contributions to early sexology. Different sources identify him as Ruthenian or as Russian. He was the personal physician to the Czar.

Index of BDSM articles

This is an index of BDSM articles. BDSM is a variety of erotic practices involving dominance and submission, role-playing, restraint, and other interpersonal dynamics. Given the wide range of practices, some of which may be engaged in by people who do not consider themselves as practicing BDSM, inclusion in the BDSM community or subculture is usually dependent on self-identification and shared experience. Interest in BDSM can range from one-time experimentation to a lifestyle.

Alfred Fuchs was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist.

<i>Venus in Fur</i> (film) 2013 film

Venus in Fur is a 2013 French erotic drama film directed by Roman Polanski. It is based on the play of the same name by American playwright David Ives, which itself was inspired by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's novel Venus in Furs. It stars Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric, the only actors in the film.

<i>Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty</i> 1967 book by Gilles Deleuze

Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty is a 1967 book by the philosopher Gilles Deleuze, originally published in French as Le Froid et le Cruel, in which the author philosophically examines the work of the late 19th-century Austrian novelist Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. In the Foreword Deleuze states that Masoch has a particular way of "desexualising love while at the same time sexualizing the entire history of humanity". Deleuze attempts to "cut through" the various forms of expression and content that are the artistic creation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. He also attempts to develop a problematic of masochism in contradistinction to sadism, concluding that the two forms of 'pornology' are non-communicating, and cannot be integrated into Sadomasochistic entity. Deleuze argues that Masochism is something far more subtle and complex than the enjoyment of pain and that Masochism has nothing to do with Sadism.