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VENUS IN FURS And Selected Letters by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (Blast Books: $9.95)

September 03, 1989|SONJA BOLLE

This infamous novel about domination and submission presents a strongly feminist point of view. Sacher-Masoch maintains that he wants a wife who will be his companion, but contemporary society forces women to be men's despots or slaves; only when the sexes are equal in education and employment can they become true partners.

A reader might expect a novel that earned its author an entry in the lexicon of perversions (Krafft-Ebing coined "masochist" from Sacher-Masoch) would be entertaining, but "Venus in Furs" merely proves how dreary obsessed people can be. The fussy, Victorian prose and endless descriptions of fur-trimmed garments quickly become a bore.

In their correspondence, Emilie Mataja cleverly uses the already established writer to find publishers for her work. She describes herself as eager to dominate a man; he replies with details of the fur-trimmed velvet jacket that she should wear when they meet. The relationship was apparently never consummated, but Mataja got into print.

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