If youve ever been curious about where the term masochism comes from, you will find it laden in the pages of Leopold von Sacher-Masochs masterpiece, Venus in Furs, for whom the term was named. Drawn in part from his own life experiences, Sacher-Masochs novel develops an eroticism unlike any other. The books protagonist, Severin, is so infatuated and obsessed with the object of his desire, Wanda, that he asks to be her slave. Although hesitant at first, Wandas treatment of Severin becomes more and more depraved, fueling Severins own desires for cruelty. Venus in Furs (or essentially, The Education of a Young Woman) is novelist and poet von Sacher-Masochs most sublime text on the devotion of masochism-emotional, psychological, sexual-and it is a masterpiece of persuasion. Its protagonist is an educated and devout man given to whips and ideals. Severin von Kusiemskis is an unusual (and mystical) pedagogy and his Ideal is the cruel woman in furs who will allow him to be her slave; for in his rapturous acquiescence, and in his conscious guidance of both his own and his mistress will, Severin will have penetrated into the beating heart of a solitary mans deepest and most profound desires: to merge flesh with spirit, birth with death, Heaven with Hell. This classic late-nineteenth-century novel-surprisingly, rarely if ever made so accessible to English-speaking readers-is not, as popular rumor would have it, simply a lurid tale of obsessive obscenity. Nor is it merely a Victorian dream of antique decadence. It remains a deeply felt, intelligent and powerful morality play of our time, marvelously written, and it leaves one, finally, to question his/her presumptions and ambivalence toward torment, submission, and ecstasy. This edition includes an intriguing selection of letters between von Sacher-Masoch and a young correspondent that illuminates the real-life parallel of von Sacher-Masochs ideals and that of his oeuvre. Venus in Furs and Selected Letters is, in all, a passionate portrayal of one mans indomitable struggle to enlighten and instruct himself and his world in the realm of desire. A timeless volume, highly recommended for bed-sitting aesthetes everywhere.