Coldness and Cruelty: Two Contracts of von Sacher-Masoch

On September 3, 2013 by admin

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Contract between Mrs Fanny von Pistor and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch

On his word of honour, Mr Leopold von Sacher-Masoch undertakes to be the slave of Mrs von Pistor, and to carry out all her wishes for a period of six months.

On her behalf, Mrs von Pistor shall not demand anything of him that would dishonor him in any way (as a man or as a citizen). Moreover, she shall allow him six hours a day for his personal work, and shall never look at his letters and writings. On the occurrence of any misdemeanor or negligence or act of lèse majesté, the mistress (Fanny von Pistor) may punish her slave (Leopold von Sacher-Masoch) in whatever manner she pleases. In short, the subject shall obey his sovereign with complete servility and shall greet any benevolence on her part as a precious gift; he shall not lay claim to her love nor to any right to be her lover. On her behalf, Fanny von Pistor undertakes to wear furs as often as possible, especially when she is behaving cruelly.

At the end of the six months, this period of enslavement shall be considered by both parties as not having occurred, and they shall make no serious allusion to it. Everything that happened is to be forgotten, and the previous loving relationship restored.

These six months need not run consecutively: they make be subject to interruptions beginning and ending according to the whims of the sovereign lady.

We, the undersigned, confirm this contract,

FANNY PISTOR BAGANOW

LEOPOLD, KNIGHT OF SACHER-MASOCH

Came into operation 8th December 1869.

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II

Contract between Wanda and Sacher-Masoch

My Slave,

The conditions under which I accept you as my slave and tolerate you at my side are as follows:

You shall renounce your identity completely.

You shall submit totally to my will.

In my hands you are a blind instrument that carries out all my orders without discussion. If ever you should forget that you are my slave and do not obey me implicitly in all matters, I shall have the right to punish and correct you as I please, without your daring to complain.

Anything pleasant and enjoyable that I shall grant you will be a favour on my part which you must acknowledge with gratitude. I shall always behave faultlessly toward you but shall have no obligations to do so.

You shall be neither a son nor a brother nor a friend; you shall be no more than my slave groveling in the dust.

Your body and your soul too shall belong to me, and even if this causes you great suffering, you shall submit your feelings and sentiments to my authority.

I shall be allowed to exercise the greatest cruelty, and if I should mutilate you, you shall bear it without complaint. You shall work for me like a slave and although I may wallow in luxury whilst leaving you in privation and treading you underfoot, you shall kiss the foot that tramples you without a murmur. I shall have the right to dismiss you at any time, but you shall not be allowed to leave me against my will, and if you should escape, you hereby recognize that I have the power and the right to torture you to death by the most horrible methods imaginable.

You have nothing save me; for you I am everything, your life, your future, your happiness, your unhappiness, your torment and your joy.

You shall carry out everything I ask of you, whether it is good or evil, and if I should demand that you commit a crime, you shall turn criminal to obey my will. Your honour belongs to me, as does your blood, your mind, and your ability to work.

Should you ever find my domination unendurable and should your chains ever become too heavy, you shall be obliged to kill yourself for I will never set you free.

“I undertake, on my word of honour, to be the slave of Mrs Wanda von Dunajew, in the exact way that she demands, and to submit myself without resistance to everything she will impose on me.”

DR. LEOPOLD, KNIGHT OF SACHER-MASOCH

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Leopold von Sacher-Masoch was born in 1835 in Lemberg, Galicia. He was of Slav, Spanish and Bohemian descent. His ancestors held official positions in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father was Chief of Police of Lemburg, and as a child he witnessed prison scenes and riots which were to have a profound effect on him.

He was appointed Professor of History at Graz and began his literary career by writing historical novels. He met with rapid success: one of his first genre novels, The Divorced Woman (1870) aroused interest even in America.

…In the language of Masoch’s folklore, history, politics, mysticism, eroticism, nationalism and perversion are closely intermingled, forming a nebula around the scenes of flagellation; he was consequently disturbed when Krafft-Ebing [Text-book of Insanity, 1879; Psychopathia Sexualis, 1886] used his name to designate a perversion. Masoch was famous and honored as a writer.

Masoch’s tastes in matters of love are well known: he enjoyed pretending to be a bear or a bandit or having himself pursued, tied up and subject to punishments, humiliations and even acute physical pain by an opulent fur-clad woman with a whip; he was given to dressing up as a servant, making use of all kinds of fetishes and disguises, placing advertisements in newspapers, signing contracts with the women in his life and if need be prostituting them.

An affair with Anna von Kottowitz inspired The Divorced Woman, another affair, with Fanny von Pistor, Venus in Furs. Then a young lady by the name of Aurore Rumelin approached him by means of a somewhat ambiguous correspondence, took the pseudonym of Wanda, and married Masoch in 1873. As a companion she was at once docile, demanding and overwhelmed. Masoch was fated to be disappointed as though the masquerades he planned were bound to give rise to misunderstandings. He was always attempting to introduce a third party into his ménage, the character he calls “the Greek.” During his period with Anna von Kottowitz, a sham Polish count entered their life, revealing himself later to be a chemist’s assistant wanted for theft and dangerously ill.

…[Masoch] died in 1895, saddened by the neglect into which his work had fallen.

And yet his writings are important and unusual… The work of Masoch draws on all the forces of German Romanticism. No other writer has used to such effect the resources of fantasy and suspense. He has a particular way of “desexualizing” love and at the same time sexualizing the entire history of humanity.

 

From Gilles Deleuze, Foreward to Masochism (Deleuze’s ‘Coldness and Cruelty’ and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, New York: Zone Books, 1991).

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