By Ulrich Bach
The heart of the Habsburg Empire lies at its periphery.
– Joseph Roth
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the infamous Austrian author of countless erotic novellas, is little known for his distinctive political utopianism. Yet much of his work espouses a paradoxical German-language Pan-Slavism. As Sacher-Masoch foresees it, the German language would serve as a common denominator to allow the various Habsburg nations to communicate with each other more effectively. Notwithstanding the controversial political implications of his “Germanic” Pan-Slavism, his exciting, page turning novellas, set at the colonial borders of the Hapsburg Empire, are usually read in the context of sexual transgressions and dominating female figures, of which “Venus im Pelz” (1870) is merely the most prominent example. Indeed, Sacher-Masoch’s aesthetics explore the connections among love, power and gender roles. However, his radically liberal and utopian political program is less often considered, as is underscored by the Germanist Werner Michler’s, recent observation, that “the slim corpus of research literature on Sacher-Masoch can be divided in works about the ‘masochism-complex,’ and, more recently, works about Jewish themes” (109). For instance, the literary scholar Albrecht Koschorke argues in his influential literary biography Sacher-Masoch: Die Inszenierung einer Perversion (1988) that Sacher-Masoch's most truthful revelation of his determinism lies in the nihilism, asceticism and renunciation of his protagonists. Koschorke brings in a verdict of depravity when he writes:
Unexpectedly [Sacher-Masoch’s] impetus toward a fundamental social criticism descends into demonstrations of the fallen nature of the world and of humankind. Even the title, Vermächtnis Kains (Cain’s Legacy), lends a religious consecration to his diagnosed vileness (55).
And shortly before in the same context:
Even if the philosophical position, which Sacher-Masoch sketches out, includes many elements which in his day were exceptionally advanced, even if traces of Stirner’s Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum cross paths in his work with ideas of a Slavic proto-Communism -- some wanted to perceive here a spiritual kinship with Tolstoy --, still the degree of his intellectual penetration of the obvious deplorable state of affairs remains extraordinarily minimal (54).
Hence, Koschorke sees Sacher-Masoch's social criticism and political convictions as sheer ornamentation to the insidious aestheticism of cruelty in his gory stories. More recently, literary scholars such as John Noyes (1994), Michael O'Pecko (1994) and Kai Kauffmann (2001) have reconsidered Sacher-Masoch’s political agenda. Their research has shown, for example, that Sacher-Masoch’s politics is “always coextensive with private, and particularly, sexual power relations” (Noyes 16). A reading of his seminal novellas reveals that Sacher-Masoch’s playful imagination posits an enactment of gender reversals and sexual negotiation that allows the author and his readership to explore the boundaries of permissiveness within the societal order at the borders of the Habsburg Empire. Whereas his masochistic protagonists seek to obtain pleasure by disavowing and suspending reality, his empathic description of multiethnic society in Galicia portrays the sadistic institutional power tormenting peasants and minorities such as Jews. The sexually charged colonial narratives also underscore Sacher-Masoch’s own hybridity and liminality; he simultaneously identifies with the colonized Eastern Europeans and with the colonial power of the Habsburg Empire!
In this chapter, I demonstrate how the novellas in Vermächtnis Kains despite, or because of their bleak determinism and ever-present sexual transgressions, not only deal with, but criticize the oppressive nature of class, race and gender clashes in the para-colonial space of Galicia and the often raw encounters between the colonizers and their subjects. Thus Sacher-Masoch anticipates contemporary empires with their many metaphors of heterogeneity. As Russell Berman observed, the beginning of one of Sacher-Masoch’s best known novellas shows that he was consciously writing colonial literature for his West European readers:
“We drove out of the provincial capital Kolomea into the countryside.” With this beginning of the "Don Juan of Kolomea" (1864), Sacher-Masoch announces the colonial question by attaching a footnote to the name of the city, thereby providing some geographic authenticity for his German and other West European readers, who are presumably not familiar with the map of the expansive East: “A province and provincial capital in eastern Galicia. Kolomea derives from Colonia because the city is built on the classical ground of a former Roman settlement.” The topic of the novella then is the Don Juan of the colonies or Don Juan as colonial – the full constellation of race, gender, and power (Berman Enlightenment 222f.).
Korschoke sees Sacher-Masoch as the gentle conqueror of exotic Galicia:
Just as the first ethnographers in Africa and Asia were colonial officers, so Sacher-Masoch’s poetic discovery of the border province of Galicia follows its administrative and technical exploration. His writing addresses the human consequences of developing a human and regional wilderness, structurally similar to the political territorial control that had long been the mission of his family. A development, moreover, which sought as its object to preserve the charm of the undeveloped, and which sought to compensate synthetically for that when it had been inadvertently lost (26).
Consequently, I seek to read Sacher-Masoch as an Austrian colonial writer, his colonialism interior to the Austrian Empire and reflective of its ethnic diversity. He is as a writer contributing to the Habsburg myth, a myth Joseph Roth’s protagonist so eloquently bemoans in his eulogy of the monarchy Die Kapuzinergruft (1938):
[T]hat which is said to be unusual for Austria-Hungary is obvious. At the same time I want to say that only for this crazy Europe of nation states and nationalism does the obvious appear to be strange. In fact it is the Slovenians, the Polish and Ruthenian Galicians, the Caftan Jews from Boryslav, the horse traders from Bacska, the Sarajevo Muslims, the Maronibraters from Mostar, who sing “Gott erhalte [Kaiser Franz].” But the German students from Brünn and Eger, the dentists, pharmacists, hairstylists, art photographers from Linz, Graz, Knittelfeld, those with goiters from the Alpine valleys, they all sing “Die Wacht am Rhein.” Austria will be destroyed by this devotion to the Nibelungen, Gentlemen! The essence of Austria isn’t its center but its periphery. Austria is not to be found in the Alps, chamois is to be found there and edelweiss and gentian, but scarcely a hint of a double eagle. The Austrian substance is nourished and over and over replenished from the crown lands (17, my italics).
Furthermore as a writer with a distinctive utopian vision of a multi-cultural, property-free, communal Empire, in contrast to the Habsburg state’s self-indulgent image as a politically indolent Central European country, as expressed in Robert Musil's Mann ohne Eigenschaften (1930-43): “no man had an ambition for global economic or global political power; one was situated in the center of Europe, where the old world axes crossed; the terms ‘colony’ and ‘overseas’ sounded like something still completely untested and distant” (32f.). Hence, Sacher-Masoch's novels suggest an inextricable link between private, inverted gender roles and public, ethnic conflicts in the para-colonial setting of Eastern Europe. Sacher-Masoch’s texts can serve as a model for the use of fantasy and utopia as a structural device to illustrate the psychological and social conflicts of colonial borderlands.
Born in 1836, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch grew up in a noble family in government service in East Galicia; at home Ukrainian was the predominant spoken language. Although his family was a member of the Habsburg elite as it existed on the fringes of the Empire, Sacher-Masoch, in his autobiography Souvenirs (1985), emphasizes the multi-ethnic origins of his family:
My father’s family is originally Spanish. […] My grandfather was a government official in the administration of Galicia, and drew to himself in that role so much confidence and love that the Galician nobility accepted him into their ranks and awarded him with the Indigenat. […] My mother, Caroline Edle von Masoch, was the last survivor of an old Slavic family. My father therefore, as was the custom in noble families, united her name with his with the approval of the Austrian Kaiser, and since that time the family has been known as Sacher-Masoch (60).
Only when his father was relocated to Prague, in 1848, the year of revolutions, does he learn the German language, and he then begins the study of the humanities at the university there. He completes his doctorate and teaches for nearly ten years at the university in Graz, without receiving the hoped-for recognition for his literary historical writing. At the same time, his early novellas do find an interested circle of readers, so he decides to become a full-time writer. Through a series of difficult love affairs, which serve both as source and inspiration for his literary creativity, he gets into debt at this time of his life and is forced to write a great deal and to change locations frequently.1 Although he only returns to Galicia for two short stays, that East European border country forms the locus for the preponderant number of his novellas. If one accepts the descriptions of his Galician childhood, then Sacher-Masoch learns while still in the care of his Ukrainian nursemaid of the “magnificent, melancholy songs, as they are sung by the ordinary Russian peasants [and] the heartrending melodies which are equal to them in force and poetry” (Souvenirs 61). In this respect, his literary creations embody an individual-psychological attempt to give artistic form to the trauma of his geographic uprooting. Kauffmann, moreover, offers the opinion that Sacher-Masoch’s autobiography produces a romantic exotic through the mythological synthesis of the Spanish-Habsburg military, Slavic nobility and Ukrainian peasant class:
The Slavic people appear as primitive material, which first attains a civilized form through the German-speaking representatives of Austrian literature and administration. In this way, Austria’s cultural leadership and political control within the Habsburg Empire is justified and assured” (178).
Thus, Kauffmann sees Sacher-Masoch’s poetic works as a tribute to the hegemonic Habsburg ideology. Still, Sacher-Masoch’s “counter-factual” writings deal with real existing conflicts among the multi-ethnic Habsburgs, and only the questioning of the myth produces the poetic space for transcending existing power relationships. According to Karl Mannheim, ideology and utopia both share an essence (Seinswirklichkeit) that is incongruent with the historical situation in which they exist, and both evoke images transcending those of the present reality. Whereas utopia with its vision of a better society ought to shatter and overcome the worldly situation, ideological wish-pictures serve to maintain the status quo. The perception of the terms utopia/ideology depends on each subject’s position: a member of the ruling class is inclined to judge utopian thought as unrealizable imaginings, whereas someone outside of the power circle is more likely to view ideology as an incongruent mode of deception by a society in which he or she has no sense of participation. Even though Sacher-Masoch did not belong to an underprivileged ethnic or social Habsburg population group, he viewed himself as an outsider: “People have taken me to be nearly anything: as a Jew, as a Hungarian, as a Bohemian, and even as a woman.” In this respect Kauffmann’s ideological criticism overlooks the important utopian function of Sacher-Masoch’s ethnographic novellas. To realize the (utopian) aim of a liberal, multi-ethnic Habsburg state, the individual-psychologically motivated depictions of conflicts first have to transcend the then existent status quo.
Sacher-Masoch’s political convictions were marked by the concept of a Central European ethnic ecumenism. He believed that the various East European peoples could preserve an equality of political status under the umbrella of the Habsburgs’ rule. In 1866, after Austria’s exclusion from the German Federation, Sacher-Masoch became the editor of the literary periodical Gartenlaube für Österreich (Austrian Arbor).2 Sacher-Masoch was then living in the provincial capital of Graz, where he took over the periodical, which had originated there shortly before. His idea was to compete with the most important German family periodical, the Gartenlaube of Leipzig. Concerning the editorial mindset, the goal of the Gartenlaube für Österreich was to promote Habsburg national self-sufficiency in the face of the mighty Prussia through a simultaneous regional and cosmopolitan journalistic reportage. Alongside regular social correspondence from Vienna, Paris, London and St. Petersburg, the journal offered novellas in serial form from Adalbert Stifter, Karl von Thaler and Sacher-Masoch, most of which dealt with themes from the periphery of the monarchy: [Take out these titles? Integrate them in a new sentence?] “The Gypsies and the Southern Danubian Lands,” “Bear Hunt in Galicia” and “Stag Hunt in Upper Styria.” Sacher-Masoch described the editorial program thus:
The mission of the Gartenlaube für Österreich is therefore to rise above partisanship, to be just to all ethnicities and to reveal to each ethnic group the merits of the others, instead of ruthlessly uncovering the reciprocal flaws of each to craft tragic humor into a contemptible polemic. Above all it will be the task of our journal to cultivate the fallow fields in our fatherland: belletristic literature and popular science. Mindset: a strict unitary approach, thus a free-thought striving for progress, is to characterize our enterprise, so that it contributes to an awakening of love for homeland, in contrast to a negating, foreign journalism, and contributes further to the elevation of education generally and to the empowerment of the common spirit of the ordinary people (Gartenlaube für Österreich Vol. 1 No. 1 1866: 1).
It was his declared aim not only to fight vehemently against the Prussian state with its militaristic, materialistic and anti-Semitic orientation, but also “to mediate among the various ethnic groups in the monarchy, and to familiarize them with each other” (Sacher-Masoch in Bruck 364). “Love for the homeland, for the people," he said, "gave birth to the journal, the sympathy of the homeland, of the people, must keep it fresh and spring-like! From now on it is the task of every genuine patriot to cast his gaze inward, for the best way to learn to love one’s fatherland is to get to know it exactly” (384). According to this mission statement, the editors hope that Austria's forced isolation will spark a movement toward a new all-inclusive Austrian patriotism. The metaphors evoking this home community emulate exclusion: an inward looking volk and heimat give birth to this leaflet (blatt), and it is also the volk, which has to keep it fresh and green. Far from being all-inclusive, Sacher-Mosoch seems here to compete with the metaphors of German nationalism in the wake of the Reichsgründung.
The Gartenlaube für Österreich was to provide a forum presenting the entire literary spectrum of this multi-ethnic Habsburg state: “Since our journal is genuinely Austrian, it will present a cosmopolitan outlook that speaks not just to Austria, or to all of Germany, but indeed it will have a thoroughly innovative and characteristic message for Europe” (369). This somewhat diffuse statement informs not only Sacher-Masoch’s economical savoir-faire, but reveals Sacher-Masoch’s existential liminality: on the one hand he sees himself as an authentic Austrian, on the other hand as a citizen of the world, who paradoxically seeks to originate a German-language Pan-Slavism. He viewed the German language as a common denominator, an imperial language in which people of different nationalities could communicate.
Sacher-Masoch depicts Austria as a nation that is more than the sum of the ethnic groups within the monarchy, which he describes “[as] a political nationality, in which the natural nationalities could be united, each with the full recognition of its rights and freedoms” (Sacher-Masoch in Bruck 389). He amalgamates two entities: the consensus driven, calculated, civilized Austrian nation with the genuinely atavistic Slavic community. Sacher-Masoch imagines unifying multiple Eastern European ethnicities into one Habsburg nation while retaining their rights and freedoms. His utopian agenda would provide Austria with what Hardt and Negri call "the social multiplicity to manage to communicate and act in common while remaining internally different." Thus he resolves the contradiction between inclusion and exclusion, creating an exclusive imperial identity that still includes its colonial components.
To be sure, his political adoption of the German language as a universal cultural medium found little acceptance among his Habsburg contemporaries. On the one hand, Sacher-Masoch was branded by the conservative Viennese press corps as a Slavic parasite and German renegade, who sinned against the German language,3 while on the other hand the Slavic intellectuals in the provinces, hoping for territorial self-determination, rejected his usage of the German language as subjugation to the hegemonic aspirations of the Germans. Sacher-Masoch answers the chauvinistic libels of the liberal press of Vienna with stylish irony: “They [the press] are so laughable to see in the one Austria program a danger for Austria, for Austria is not Austria, they say; the Czechs, Hungarians, Russians, Poles, Rumanians, Serbs, Croats, Slovenians, Italians aren’t Austria; we are Austria, actually not even the Germans, but Vienna, and within Vienna above all the publishers of the outmoded press” (390).
The Viennese critic Ferdinand Kürnberger, however, perceived in Sacher-Masoch and his productive sensuality the chance for a new start for contemporary German literature, and greeted his prose as a “first, fleeting ray of dawn” (Sacher-Masoch Don Juan 192). Kürnberger enthusiastically promotes Sacher-Masoch's nonconformist writings in the introduction to his novel “Don Juan von Kolomea.” Although the critic shies away from “improperly conceding to a half-alien foreigner our valuable traditionally renowned literary culture,” he orientalizes Sacher-Masoch through repeated references to his Slavic naturalness (Natürlichkeit) and his exotic sensuality, which wafts like “fresh adolescent sensitivity over virgin fields of the fantastical” (192).
If Western orientalist discourse, as Edward Said claims, produces not only exotic despotism, cruelty and sensuality but also irrational, childlike difference, then Kürnberger successfully molds Sacher-Masoch into an “oriental” writer for the German-speaking public. The contemporary Austrian writer Karl Emil Franzos tellingly published his collected stories about Eastern European Jews under the title “From Half-Asia”(1883). But while Kürnberger’s criticism infantilized Sacher-Masoch, it also made him a potential font of new energy for Europe. In a certain respect, Kürnberger merely broadens Sacher-Masoch's own dichotomy of the tired civilization of Western Europe with the pristine vitality of the Slavic East. At the end of Sacher's novella “Hajdamak,” while standing on a peak of the Carpathian mountain range, the first person narrator, called Sacher (!), spells out the programmatic Eastern renewal of the burned out European civilization: “Over there is tired Europe, weathered like rock that crumbles under our feet and falls into the abyss, […] Here in contrast are the young, fresh nations on the rise, […] looking toward the future without fear and without doubt” (Sacher Vermächtnis II/1, 301). Kurnberger’s treatment of Sacher-Masoch thus reveals the central paradox of Western orientalism: the orientalized subject becomes both the childlike other and the source of renewal, even the heir to empire.
In this vein, Kürnberger foresees an “authentic future Canaan” (Sacher Don Juan 190) latent in these Eastern lands, related by custom and conduct, but which are neither geographically nor politically part of the German federation, in which a “sense of shared humanity” can be drawn “from the shared Pan-Slavic common identity” (191). In light of this interpretation it’s not surprising that the Viennese critic wanted to win Sacher-Masoch for his decidedly German-Austrian project:
How would it be if, instead of the Great Russian Turgeniev, we had a Ukrainian [Kleinrussen], someone from East Galicia, that is to say an Austrian, that is to say a German? What if in Austria, which has so far so inadequately fulfilled its mission of Germanization; what if, in these times when the nationalities in Austria are in open rebellion against Germaness, a Slavic-born author from the banks of the Prut sent an excellent German novella to the banks of the Main and the Nekar? ... That fact could mean that German literature had conquered totally new Eastern longitudes and had annexed totally new and fresh primitive peoples [naturvölker], which had not yet written German but which, in the course of time, have begun to do so more and more. We would see a great, fertilizing stream of sensualism set in motion toward the old Germany, overly manured with books. We would see German poets emerging from the prairies of the Weichsel and the mountain forests of the Dneister, new earthy men, who make books out of nature, not out of other books. Their "sources" are not empty libraries but real sources in meadows and forests (191f.).
With this vision of cultural annexation Kürnberger rightly refers to Sacher-Masoch since both suppose an improvement of the Austrian state concept in the east. Sacher-Masoch, Kürnberger and, with differences, Theodor Hertzka and Lazar von Hellenbach write in the tradition of a cyclically recurring idea of a vitalization of Austria, or Germany, through foreign cultures from the east. One generation later, at the time of the Viennese and Berlin Modernism, one finds in Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s essay “Die österreichische Idee” (1917), as well as in Max Weber and Thomas Mann intimations of a divine redemption from the east. As Russell Berman explains: “the notion that an amelioration might come from the East anticipates the arguments both in Max Weber’s Protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus (1904) and in Thomas Mann’s Tod in Venedig (1913), where Aschenbach dreams of a new God arriving from Asia” (224). According to Kauffmann, the “Austrian Idea” was frequently recycled as an alternative to a “Prussian confederation” (Kleindeutschen lösung) or to “Great-German annexations” (Grossdeutschen anschlüssen) (186). Hoffmannthal's essay, for instance, posits the idea of Austrian leadership in Central Europe as a counterbalance to the political reality of the German dominated alliance during the First World War. In light of this, the “Idea of Austria” and its inherent nationalistic, geopolitical and racist implications, becomes more and more central.
Referring to Sacher-Masoch’s Jüdisches Leben (1892), the author and literary critic W. G. Sebald sees in Kürnberger's introduction not merely a cultural but also a dangerous geopolitical program: “[a]n unholy avenue of thought, and yet in it is most clearly expressed what is just then taking place. For, even in the ghetto story written in the German language, there is a component of the ideal process of Germanization, which had so little political realization in East Europe in the course of the bourgeois century, disappointing the growing number of geopoliticians, that the vision was put into practice by force some generations later” (58). In other words, Kürnberger’s vision alarms Sebald by showing how Sacher-Masoch’s German-language novellas could be read as part of an aggressive Germanization process. Berman, however, pushes Sebald's critique of the German desire to dominate and expand into Eastern Europe a little further. He sees in Kürnberger's argument a degradation of Western civilization resulting in a (rhetorical) elevation of marginal cultures, when he writes: "it is this primitivist inversion that characterizes the predominate trope of German colonial discourse: an inversion of power in the cultural sphere not unlike the symbolic staging of submission in Sacher-Masoch's fiction" (Berman, Enlightenment 224f.). In the context of German-Austrian imperialism, Berman's reference to Sacher-Masoch is significant: if sadism follows the logic of institutional dominance and the oppressor's pleasure in the victim's feeble resistance, then in contractual masochism, it would be the victim, the one who authorizes his own humiliation, who is paradoxically in charge of the scenario. Accordingly, in Sacher-Masoch's representation of gender relationships, his apparently weak male characters are in control of the situation in most of his stories. More importantly, by referring to Sacher-Masoch, Berman inverts the stable power dichotomy between colonizers and colonized. For Berman, the colony is precisely the site of destabilization, where cultural hierarchies and values of high integrity lose their credibility. Thus, it is at the periphery of the Empire, in a para-colonial space, where a mixed race emerges, that change is fermented, the distillate of which alters the intellectual metropolitan culture.
Whereas Sebald sounds a cautionary note about the unadulterated Germanic politics of cultural hegemony found in Kürnberger's introduction, Berman sees in the same text a positive function for Germanic colonialism as a mechanism for mixing and rejuvenation. Consequently, I would like to pursue the question if and to what extent a colonial utopian program can be read from the depicted gender conflicts in some of Sacher-Masoch's para-colonial novellas. Since Sacher-Masoch’s erotic tales, presenting dominating, fur-coated women and submissive, servile men, show only one side of his manifold creativity, it is time to look at his self-pronounced magnum opus Vermächtnis Kains.
It is not without foundation that Sacher-Masoch regarded his great, uncompleted novella cycle, Vermächtnis Kains, as his principal work; it comprises six thematic books concerning love, possession, the state, war, work and death. In a letter to his publisher, Cotta, Sacher-Masoch describes the structure as follows: “Each of these [above mentioned themes] will be addressed in a particular part within six novellas, of which five illuminate the issue itself in its manifold nuances, the sixth always contains the response, the solution and reconciliation” (Sacher-Masoch Don Juan 179). Although the cycle is intended to represent the totality of the human condition, the author was able to actualize entirely only the first two themes (love and possession) and a couple of dispersed novels such as “Iluj” and “Judenraffael,” belonging to other themes (state and death). The first cycle comprises aesthetically sophisticated novels like “Venus im Pelz,” in which a man seemingly lets himself be tormented by a woman; “Don Juan von Kolomea,” in which a man gets revenge on a woman by leading an amoral lifestyle; and “Kapitulant,” in which a woman betrays the love of a man through egoism and pursuit of pleasure. Notwithstanding its aesthetic brilliance, the cycle contains: “an unbridgeable discrepancy between the demand for poetic totality and the individual stories, which aim for its exemplary representation. Even their form, the novella, as a flash illumination of a singular and strange occurrence, is unsuited for the construction of such a cosmology. What Sacher-Masoch brings about exhausts itself, therefore, in a striking phenomenologically oriented juxtaposition of exemplary cases” (Koschorke 54). Precisely because I agree in this respect with Koschorke, the following textual analysis is not concerned with the author's failed intention to represent a poetic totality, but instead undertakes a critical reading of Sacher-Masoch’s colonial and utopian impetus.
The prologue to the entire cycle, “Der Wanderer,” portrays a “troubling figure, who belongs to a company of monks, who dismisses marriage as a mortal sin, and to whom only a free life together between the sexes is permitted” (8n). The wanderer per Sacher-Masoch is “to [depict] an authentic national figure of the great Slavic world to the east” (9n). The wanderer flees the demands of world to seek actively for a putative release from the existing social order. With his flight from the world the wanderer embodies the type of the anarchistic ascetic, who certainly in addition to his religious, ascetic pathos, proclaims social-Darwinian perspectives by portraying humans as “the most reasoned, bloodthirsty, and cruel of all beasts” (11). But at the same time Sacher-Masoch’s wanderer is a personally troubled figure in his search for identity, divorced from nation or family or any roots in a particular territory. His self-inflicted departure from a sedentarily predictable life in search of the German Pan-Slavic national identity is threatened by multiple losses in the form of cultural and territorial ties. In this sense, the nihilist Slavic wanderer functions as an alter ego of the author, and through him Sacher-Masoch voices his own pessimistic view of humanity:
The nations, the states are big humans, and identical to the smaller humans in their lust for booty and blood. Indeed, he who wants to do no harm cannot exist. Nature has directed that we should live from the death of others, but as soon as we accept the right to exploit lesser organisms only as a necessity arising in the instinct for self-preservation, then we can go beyond to the justification for humans to harness animals to the plow or to slaughter them, to the justification for the strong to exploit the weak, for the gifted to exploit the less gifted, for the stronger white race to exploit the coloreds, for the more capable, more educated, or for those peoples lucky to be more developed to exploit the less developed (14).
The wanderer recounts nothing less than a natural history of colonialism. He thus provides a justification for what Kipling later called the “white man’s burden.”4 However, the wanderer wants to transcend this natural order and withdraw from human society.5 Sacher-Masoch hereby shows the world and its human inhabitants as they are and later in the resolution as they should be. This dialectic move is mirrored by the structure of the novellas: five materialistically grounded novellas, reflecting the realities of human conduct, are followed by one idealistic conciliatory story which represents the alternative. An early conceptualization of this structure is set out in a letter to his brother Karl:
One of the main ideas of the [novella] cycle is that humankind will only then be happy when the moral social laws are also given validity at the level of the state, and the so-called ‘great princes,’ great generals and great diplomats wind up on the gallows or in prison just as today murderers, robbers, forgers, and swindlers do.
For the state: the misery and business of the absolute monarchy; the mendacity of constitutionalism; rescue through democracy, United States of Europe; common legislation.
War: fear of war, recruiting, the misery of standing armies, fire, plundering, rape, starvation, theft from the dead. The general obligation for military service allows a general disarmament.
Work: it is a voluntary tribute to existence, overcoming for the time these dangers and giving people joy in the process. The wealthy will reduce their demand to have to work as little as possible. Society in turn will have to strive to stamp out idleness, those who live at the expense of others, by seeking a just distribution of work to all social elements to reduce the overall workload (178).
This description of his aesthetic masterpiece reads like a political pamphlet written by a revolutionary social reformer. All aspects of public life, according to Sacher-Masoch, need a general reconstitution of the exploitative, social-Darwinist structure if the European populace is to be allowed the pursuit of happiness. Unlike Kürnberger’s Germanizing fantasies, he speaks clearly against every form of power politics. In contrast, he sees the answer in a Pan-European democracy with unlimited equality for all citizens. The autocratic rule of the nobility is as strongly rejected as is war, which falls as a burden first of all on the deprived populace. At a time when discourses of nationality prevailed, Sacher-Masoch and his fellow utopianists instead looked forward, anticipating trans-border alliances like the European Union, which would not occur for another century.
In “Kapitulant” (1870), one of the six novellas that constitute the cycle “Love” in Vermächtnis Kains, we learn about the destiny of the introverted peasant Balaban, who loses his fiancée Katharina to their master, but subsequently explains her infidelity to himself as an inevitability of female nature, thereafter compensating for the loss by leading a life of quiet renunciation. Here we can see what Michael T. O’Pecko describes as a typical paradigm for Sacher-Masoch’s tales: “a couple, one of whom is a gifted woman whose sex prevents her from completely realizing her abilities in a male dominated society and the other of whom is a weak” (335), underprivileged man whose passivity has become a barrier to his entry into the practical and sensual sides of life. The man’s modesty finally succeeds in provoking the woman into giving him a thrashing, which accompanies a crisis in his life, forcing him to reevaluate his behavior. A parting of the ways usually brings about the resolution in his novellas when the man’s transformation proves insufficient to raise him to his partner’s level.
The frame story of “Kapitulant” is a wintertime sledge ride by the narrator that provides an opportunity for him to depict the broad plains of Galicia in splendid glory:
As we flew down the bare mountainside with ringing, bright bells, the plain spread out before us, immeasurable, incomprehensible, infinite. The winter coat of ermine fur lent it the greatest majesty. It was completely covered by it. Only the bare trunks of the low willows, more distantly a few long-armed meadow springs, in the distance a few forlorn sooty huts, sketched a black appearance on the furry white surface of the snow (Sacher-Masoch Don Juan 62).
This eroticized description of nature elevates the snow to a fetish giving the reader a sense of a wintertime Galicia clothed in ermine. It is such depictions that cause Kürnberger’s blood to heat up as when he writes of Sacher-Masoch’s prose: “We would see rise up from the prairies of the Weichsel and the forests of the Dniester new earthbound German writers, who do not create books out of books, but who create books from nature” (192). In Kürnberger's reading, the vastness of the East European reaches brings the people back to their natural condition. Kürnberger attributes the greater vitality of Slavic peoples in Sacher-Masoch’s prose to unleashed forces of nature -- pristine rivers, snowcapped mountains and vast fields -- in Eastern Europe. As narrative technique the landscape description of the frame story anchors the work to what is to come and depicts the climate in which the displayed human destiny can first be fulfilled. Notably, the long and detailed description of the infinitely vast landscape of the eastern Habsburg Empire at the beginning of “Kapitulant” was omitted from a post-war Austrian edition of Sacher-Masoch’s narratives, Dunkel ist Dein Herz, Europa (1957). With this fragmented rendering of the novella, Sacher-Masoch’s narrative brilliance had to pay involuntary tribute to post-war Austria, which no longer had any use for romantic descriptions of the East.
The pastoral structure ends when the narrator comes across the peasant, and later capitulant, Balaban, in the company of a peasant guard by the campfire. The term capitulant refers to someone who has signed up voluntarily for a double or triple term of service.6 But, at the same time, it suggests a person who has given up on himself, who has capitulated! Despite this instructive name, the stately appearance of Balaban makes a great impression on the narrator. In the course of evening the capitulant is encouraged to tell the story of his former fiancée, Katharina von Baran, the telling of which initiates the interior story. This starting point puts the civilized non-local narrator in the role of an anthropologist, thereby allowing sophisticated Viennese readers, secure in the comfort of their armchairs, to be educated and entertained about the exotic, wild East of the Habsburg multi-ethnic state.
As it turns out, Balaban’s fiancée was a devilishly beautiful peasant girl, who wanted to elevate herself. Balaban, a Galician peasant at the time, fell hopelessly in love with her and for a while he felt happy and uplifted without sensing the transience of the moment. True to the role of “femme fatale,” she tells our tragic hero directly that the Polish lord of the estate, to whom they are both subject, has eyes for her, and while she feels nothing for him, his power and wealth have an irresistible charm for her. When Balaban, a serf and near tears, stammers to her: “Katharina... think of eternity!” (83). Katharina answers him dryly: “That’s just what I’m thinking of, ... we’re here for just a short time, but there forever” (84). Katharina lives like a lady, dresses like a born princess, goes horseback riding, even smokes cigars “like a great lord” (86) and has the serfs whipped as suits her wish and mood. Thus, the transformation from a pretty farm maid to a power-addicted dominatrix is complete. It is not without reason that Sacher-Masoch positions this depiction of the rapid inversion of sexual power relationships at the border of the Habsburg Empire. This anxiety-provoking loss of manhood is projected to the fringe of the Empire to avoid unsettling the Viennese educated bourgeois readers. Precisely because this sexual anxiety was so familiar, the familiar had to be alienated, to be kept remote, to maintain the comfort of distance. It had to be ghettoized, pushed to the outer reaches of Empire where familiarity melded with strangeness. As Sacher-Masoch consciously breaks through the automatism of perception, he stylizes the periphery of the Empire to a place of social progress, but also a repository for deeply held fears.7
Moreover, Katharina chases Balaban out of the village, and he signs up for the Austrian k. u. k. (kaiserlich und königliche) army, in order to repair his broken sense of self and he finds comfort in belonging to the Emperor’s military: “Okay, you serve the Emperor; you at least know to whom you belong” (89). During his long term of military service he regains his self-esteem and he formulates telling and important insights about his military training journey: “I saw my prosperity there, more justice and humanity and more civilization as among us. I learned to esteem the Germans and the Czechs, who speak our language” (90). In other words, he comes to identify with the colonial power of Habsburgs. This association with a nation more powerful than the Polish perpetrators reflects nicely Sacher-Masoch’s liminal position, identifying at once both with the colonized Eastern Europeans and with the colonial power of the Habsburg Empire. Linking the private with the public sphere, Sacher-Masoch has the story of Balaban’s traumatic separation take place in 1846 during the Polish Landlords’ Revolution and the counterrevolution of the Galician peasantry. In response to these turbulent times, Balaban becomes increasing politicized and he projects his anger onto the Polish gentry. Balaban actively seeks a trustworthy authority figure:
And there I saw also in the provincial city, that there is an order in the world; we were held in strictness but justly. There was there no unwarranted punishment and no unearned wage, and the people in the city viewed the soldiers equally with respect. And if I stood guard before the county officers and listened to the peasants, as they spoke among one another, and how they found there justice and assistance against the Polaks, then I looked up at the eagle, which hung over the gate, and I thought to myself: you are only a small bird and you have small wings, but they are strong enough, to protect an entire people. When afterwards, as we marched to the parade, the yellow flag with the black eagle fluttered over our heads, I only had to look up at it and I was contented (89).
Claudio Magris comments succinctly on this text selection in his well-known treatise The Habsburg Myth (2000): “Folklore and supranational patriotism: that is the contribution of these rather modest tales from distant Galicia” (192). Yet this superficial analysis is too abbreviated in its grasp of Balaban’s “supra-national patriotism.” Balaban’s patriotism stems from an authoritarian personality, which -- precisely through its affirmative character -- throws into relief the reverse side of patriotism. This reverse side, this slavish following of military and national authority, allows him to express in public his desire to become a “true” Austrian. In this respect, Balaban’s ideology represents a desperate attempt to regain in the public sphere the structure and order that was taken from him in his private life by Katharina’s cruel withdrawal of her love for him.
During his sporadic visits home he has to concede that Katharina, who in the meantime has married the estate lord, has become his “Gracious Lady” (91), that is, the former farm girl, the deep love of Balaban’s life, is now by contract his all-mighty Ladyship. Inasmuch as a relationship with great social consequences has emerged from the previously peasant lovers, the social contract is immediately sexualized. Naturally such a breathtaking and awe-inspiring social change of circumstances was conceivable for the contemporary readers only at the para-colonial boarders of the Habsburg Empire. Or, as Berman puts it, Galicia functions as “a site of destabilization where cultural hierarchies and truth values lose their credibility, leading to the possibility of new modes of cognition” (225). Still, even though Sacher-Masoch projects the feared social upset outward to the periphery of the Empire, Viennese society nevertheless loses through the change its “initial position of superiority and getting inserted into a process of hybridization” (Berman 226).
At the apex of conflict in Balaban’s story, the Polish estate lords revolt against the Habsburg administration and try to bring the Galician peasants onto their side. They summon the peasants and appeal to them to join their lords’ cause, because since “the revolution broke out, the peasants were free, the [Polish] estate lords have abolished forced labor, and they [i.e. the peasants] would be allowed to attack [Habsburg] Imperial treasuries and the Jews” (93). It is scarcely possible to depict more drastically the social Darwinism of the Habsburg borderlands. In order to rid themselves of the German-Austrian administration, the estate lords offer their peasants self-determination, call for the plundering of the state treasuries, and don’t even shrink from declaring the Jews to be fair game.
Balaban perceives his life as a series of such battles, and he explains his ongoing devotion to Katharina as determined by nature: “Everything is subordinate to necessity, every living being feels how tragic existence is and still fights with nature, which for humans the struggle of a man with a woman and their love is also just a battle for existence” (97). The Darwinian conflict between the sexes proves to be coterminous with the universal conflict for existence, which is itself masochistically justified, for: “later, that which has hurt us, comes close to giving us pleasure” (100). With Balaban's unredeemed suspension and dire prospect, the novella closes with inevitable appearance of Katharina in fully fetishized attire: “The sledge stood now there, and out of the bear furs, which covered it, arose a slender, beautiful lady in an expensive fur. As she pushed back the veil from her capuchin, she was still more beautiful, but frightfully pale. Her blue eyes were feverish with anger” (100). Although the peasants wouldn't allow her to pass the checkpoint, Balaban -- true to his stance of personal renunciation -- allows “his Ladyship” to continue on her way without contention.
On the one side the dominating Katharina negates any connection to the friend of her youth. As a representative of condescending colonialism as it manifested itself in the fringe area of the Habsburg Empire, she radiates a sadistic coldness that doesn’t shrink from torment or violence. On the other side Balaban disavows the breakdown of his relationship with his young love and refuses to allow himself to be open to the possibility of falling in love with another woman. Even though he has recently won his freedom from the Polish estate lords, he suspends his masochism through the self-deception of a preordained inescapable love, which he can only bear in patience and silence. Thus “Kapitulant” portrays Darwinian relationships in the private and public realms of Galicia. In particular, it can be read as Sacher-Masoch’s portrayal of the gender power reversal. The projection onto the periphery of the Empire of contemporary misogynist sentiments concerning relationship conflicts illustrates the use of para-colonial border land as a less-threatening discursive locus for innovative sociopolitical ideas. Balaban’s capitulation, his renunciation of love, does not imply passive resignation, but an acceptance of the limits imposed by the para-colonial setting. This setting is an area of both restrictive boundaries and new possibilities for social progress and revitalization. Balaban's dire existential struggle reflects the utopian possibilities of the para-colonial space, even though the fulfillment of these possibilities – the conversion of a female peasant into an aristocratic lady – eventually turns against him.
If “Kapitulant” portrays unresolved masochistic love relationships and power struggles within the multiethnic population in Galicia, the next novella, "Paradies am Dniester" provides the readers resolution and reconciliation. “Paradies,” in the novellic cycle “Eigenthum” (Possession), is one of the two completed final novellas of Vermächtnis Kains. According to Sacher-Masoch himself these novellas are complete. Thus, it is not surprising that the tale closes with a paradisiacal depiction of a self-sufficient peasant commune. At the opening of “Paradies am Dniester,” there where “the wild Dniester sends its green silver-foamed waves from the Galizian plains into the forested Buckovina” (Sacher-Masoch Vermächtnis II/2 461), the first person narrator meets a selfless soul named Zenon Miroslavski, who “wanders among the people like a prophet” (462). His life story becomes part of the novella. On his first trip away from the parental palace, the young nobleman Zenon encounters vagabond peasants. Their wretched existence affects him so much that he seeks counsel in the palace library. There “he read [s] of Buddha, the Indian prince, who half a century before Christ, shaken by a glimpse of human misery, just as he [Zenon] was, left his palace and wandered into the wilderness to seek the solution to the agonizing mystery” (470). Zenon’s reading is another instance of one of Sacher-Masoch’s utopian ideas, the revitalization of the Habsburg realm through the religious mythology of the Far East.
Zenon leaves the care of his parents behind, and -- without any means of support or subsistence -- sets forth to discover at first hand the impoverished life of the peasantry. Incognito, he struggles against peasant superstition and the exploitation of the peasantry by shady Jewish businessmen and Polish landed aristocrats. Over time he evolves into a Galician Robin Hood, who protects helpless young mothers from the oppressions of procreation and who frees young women from coerced sexual dependencies. During a period of solitary meditative contemplation in the nearby woods – clearly a reference to Gautama’s contemplation under the bo tree – Zenon develops a concept for a social utopia of work, unity and equality. This insight comes to him during an extended, contemplative observation of an anthill. Drawn by his positive radiance an exceedingly beautiful countess falls in love with Zenon and allows a seer to foretell her future in a completely unenlightened manner. He prophesies at this séance that her “happiness is with the man, whom you love, and with whom you will flee” (514). And, when asked about his peasant origin, the clairvoyant responds meaningfully: “He is not what he seems to be… and he does not yet have what will one day be his” (515).
Meanwhile, the political situation reaches a critical stage, and with Zenon’s support the peasants refuse to perform their feudal servile duties and “began to ring the tocsin in all other villages and soon thousands of [them], armed with scythes and flails, moved on the palace” (522). With playful certitude our protagonist, Zenon, the pastoral Messiah, settles even this far reaching dispute as he has all previous conflicts: “Zenon took the laments of the peasants to their beautiful mistress and asked for a compromise favorable to both parties, which was immediately accepted by her. With this the peasants let the count and Maria Kasimira [countess] live and withdrew, singing the song of the humane noble battles. Outside they lift Zenon onto a horse and lead him triumphantly into the village, Tscherwonogrod” (523). This revolt, instigated and settled by a disguised nobleman, would merely strengthen prevailing authority, but it remains unclear if the narrator is conscious of the irony of such a “peasant revolution.” With the social problems on the wild Dniester thus resolved, the narrative turns to bringing together the two lovers, who supposedly belong to different social classes. Although Zenon, with his strength and effectiveness, is in no way similar to Sacher-Masoch’s other heroes, he brings the usual masochistic disposition, characteristic for Sacher-Masoch’s protagonists, to the fore in a romantic key scene of the text. When Maria Kasimira asks:
“Wouldn’t you willingly be my slave?” -- Zenon knelt down before her. “I am that,” he cried “and pleaded with the language of the Poet:
Never free my chains! The most painful would be the punishment, for you are for my God and world and freedom. Place your beautiful naked foot on the neck of the slave, Mistress, Mistress!”… “Oh! Place your foot upon my neck,”8 Zenon pleaded.
“No, No,” she countered full of majesty. “I swear to you it makes me happy, “he cried and threw himself face down on the ground at her feet. She blushed, breathed deeply, and finally placed her petit foot gently on his neck. “Are you really happy now?” she asked. “I am, how beautiful it is to see thus before oneself a man is who strong, courageous, noble.” --- she paused ashamed. “What? Sweet Mistress?” “That I love you” (528f).
Sacher-Masoch depicts life as a double dream in which the protagonists can speak the truth freed not only from confining class, but also from traditional gender roles. Only with his enacted subjugation is Zenon’s fantasy freed, giving Maria sufficient courage to overcome her shame and to confess her warm feelings for the putative peasant. To finish the story within the story, Maria Kasimira flees with her revolutionary peasant, who, affirmed by her proof of love, tells her that he is of noble birth. If the novella and it here, one could criticize Sacher-Masoch for glossing over the hard Galician social reality through a romantic love story. However, as a narrative device, this Galician tale serves him as a medium for him to set forth his social utopia. After Zenon and Maria are married and have moved to a grand estate, the narrator visits the couple. There, a conversation develops among Zenon, Maria Kasimira and other protagonists from the tale, in the course of which Sacher-Masoch’s pan-Slavic utopia is set forth in detail.
In the theatrically depicted conversation between a conservative German engineer, Felbe, a French doctor, Lenotre, and a Russian nihilistic aristocrat, Popiel, the competing contemporary social theories are juxtaposed against each other:
Felbe rose a little from his chair. “Allow me, Countess. It seems to me that to the extent that culture has brought an increase of population density and luxury, the outcome is that humankind more and more makes life difficult for one another. The closer we come to the natural state, the less are our needs, and the less there is actual poverty, and the more one finds people helping others instead of causing them trouble.”
Lenotre flared up. „Don’t praise to me the state of nature. This golden age meant only that all were equally rough and equally poor. Humankind has progressed, not always with equal speed, but we have come a respectable way from crudeness, arbitrariness, slavery, immorality, toward education, toward justice, to freedom and morality.”
“Why are you getting yourself all worked up,” teased Popiel, “to what does it lead to discern whether humankind is progressing or regressing? [...] I would model everything after the Russian peasant communities. The Slavic common spirit comes close to the ideals of the French communists. Do you know that Proudhon is my friend? Yes. The only salvation is a commonality of possessions under the direction of the state. Personal possessions must be abolished, together, of course, with inheritance, marriage, family. Even money must be abolished. … The instincts of the Russian race,” Popiel shouted, “are worth more than all of your European civilization. Anyway, we already have too much past, history, art. Everything must be abolished so that a new, youthful, fresh world can come into existence” (540f.).
While the Frenchman has completely given his soul up to the unceasing progress of European civilization, the German sees cultural development as provoking conflict and dreams of a community of the natural state. The Russian, in contrast, would like to keep the community of Russian peasant society withoutgiving up the progress of civilization. In other words, the Russian Popiel floats a third Slavic way toward the ideal compromise between the alternatives of humanness and sensual satisfaction. With its emphasis on the destruction of the past, i.e. history and art, in favor of a new youthful world, this utopian conception is irreverently reminiscent of reactionary modernism, and shares with it the same contradiction; Popiel "simultaneously advocates a return to pre-modern organic corporatism and the unheard-of mobilization of all social forces in the service of rapid modernization” (Zizek 89). This perhaps represents a temporal version of the geographical paradox of the para-colonial boundaries in “Kapitulant.”
In fact, Count Zenon Mirolavski, the host of the conversation, establishes a work-based community for his Slavic peasants, in which inheritable property is abolished. His social philosophy enhances Popiel’s communist position:
The question of possessions will only be solved in connection with the question of labor and appears to me in its innermost essence to be a question of wages. Possessions will be held in common; wages though must be individual since they must conform to the effort expended… [Possessions] will have to be returned to the community after the death of the owner, from which large return flows of funds can be funded major institutions and enterprises to benefit all mankind, similar to the Suez Canal or the transformation of the Sahara into an interior sea. Inheritance has never fulfilled its mission, it has not fulfilled it in the higher sense, because it seeks to assure the future of a few children at the expense of the majority (544). … Thus, in its effort to preserve the species in the small, it has brought the preservation of the species at large into danger. It has also failed its mission as an attribute of parental love, because mere possessions are an insufficient assurance for the future of the children. Children will then be better cared for in common since the community, the state, will prepare them for work and provide for their care until they have completed their education (546).
Zenon’s statement reflects the heated contemporary discussion about the question of possession and inheritance. It was not without reason that Sacher-Masoch titled the entire second part of his Cain’s Cycle Das Eigenthum (Possession), just as other Austrian utopianists participated in the discourse on possession and inheritance. Independently of their political orientation, they hoped to resolve social injustice by answering the question of possession. In his book Qu'est-ce que la propriété? (1840), Popiel’s alleged friend, the French anarchist Pierre Proudhon condemns the kind of property gain in which one man exploits the labor of another, although he does not attack the generally recognized ownership laws. Conversely, the communist Popiel vehemently proclaims in the conversation above a radical abolition of all rights of possession. But Zenon’s principal criticism of such a radical position is that the categorical abolition of property would destroy personal freedom by taking away from the individual control over his means of production. To resolve the complex issue, Zenon proposes a communal compromise: yes, for individual wages and property; no, for individual inheritance laws. Additionally, he combines his theory of communal inheritance rights with contemporary social-Darwinist discussions:
The new morality can only be based on natural laws. Nature, however, only has a single objective: the continuation and maintenance of the species. It is toward this goal that the drives of self-preservation, the sex-drive, the drive of parental love are directed. In the natural state each one expressed himself in the struggle against the same drives of others. In striving to perpetuate himself and his species, possessions and inheritance took form; the protection of ownerships ensured the existence of his descendants. With time, the human being evolved, evolved above all his brain, and with this a higher understanding of this drive, the true nature of which is more and more to be understood. From self-love and love for one’s own children arises human-love, the concern for the maintenance of the species emerged from the close-knit circle of the family and seeks to embrace the entire world. One seeks to right this injustice (544).
According to Zenon, the injustice of possessions developed through the process of civilization, yet this injustice can be made right again through an enlightened stage, if the state takes over the rearing of “its children” through the completion of their education. Thus the state creates a unified identity by infantilizing its subjects, thereby reducing their ability to operate as self-determining entities.
The motor for this Habsburg colonial utopia is expressed in the following citation:
German-ness is self-centeredness, inequality, aristocracy; Slavism is commonality, equality, democracy. And for these reasons I only expect a happy outcome for all of the great questions which concern humankind from the Slavic race. Yes, from the Slavs I expect the regeneration of the world (543).
While a key ideologic tenet of the “Habsburg myth” portrays Austria as a harmonious place, too peaceable and un-ambitious to participate in vicious European colonialism, Zenon’s expectations transcend even this wishful thinking. In contrast to Sacher-Masoch’s usual portrayal of fierce ethnic conflicts as a natural determinism within the para-colonial space of Eastern Europe, the conflict in Paradies am Dniester is prerequisite to his discussion of a utopian pan-Slavic community in Eastern Europe. Yet from its formal structure, the imaginary discussion is merely an epilogue, an afterthought to an insoluble political situation. With Paradies am Dniester, Sacher-Masoch puts forward a paradoxical colonial utopia, suspended in fantasy by displacement onto inverted gender relations and the insurmountable spatial limitations of Europe. Although Zenon’s utopia addresses the practical political problems of his time, and Sacher-Masoch locates his narratives in Eastern Europe, he clearly is motivated by a utopian conception of a European-wide new order. He disassociates himself from a limited and limiting reality, to act out in an imagined space that which is not possible in the realm of reality, so that the fictional conversation can stand in for the real. Or, as Deleuze writes: “He does not believe in negating or destroying the world nor in idealizing it: what he does is to disavow and thus to suspend it, in order to secure an ideal which is itself suspended in fantasy” (32f.). This suspension in fantasy also explains his depiction of a rapid inversion of sexual power relationships, set at the border of the Habsburg Empire, with its anxiety-provoking loss of manhood.
In fact, these sexual anxieties were so painfully familiar to Sacher-Masoch’s Viennese readership that they could only comfortably be presented as fantasies from the periphery of the Empire. He stylizes the periphery of the Empire as a place of social construction and reinvigoration. His contemporary utopian writers in Austria negated the present political reality by transferring their utopian models to Africa (Hertzka) or to the South-Sea (von Hellenbach). But by denying the spatial realities and political limitations of Europe, Sacher-Masoch creates utopian conversations that, through their suspension in fantasy, can take place within the Habsburg Empire itself. Through his use of temporal and geographical borderlands, he is able to bring to light conflicts that were repressed or displaced onto exotic locations. He offers not a way to remove all colonial, sexual, and psychological anxieties from the Habsburg sense of self, but a way to project them onto the periphery so that they are no longer dangerous.
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1 Lemberg, Prague, Graz, Vienna, Budapest, Leipzig, Paris and Lindheim/Hesse.
2 About Sacher-Masoch's role as editor of GfÖ see Oliver Bruck, “Die Gartenlaube für Österreich. Vom Scheitern des Projektes einer österreichischen Zeitschrift nach Königgrätz,“ Amann et al. Literarisches Leben 359-395.
3 "What elevates Österreichische Gartenlaube out of the sphere of harmless boredom into a higher and politically more dangerous sphere, is the Slavic parasite and renegade attitude in Austria, which is supported by the name of the main contributor [Sacher-Masoch] on the title page.“ Hieronymus Lorm, Der deutsche-österreichische Schriftsteller: Parasiten und Renegaten in Österreich,“ Die Presse 304 (1866).
4 See Rudyard Kipling, “The White Man's Burden,” McClure's Magazine 2 (1899).
5 For a longer discussion of Sacher-Masoch’s "Wanderer," see Peter Sprengel, „Darwin oder Schopenhauer? Fortschrittspessimismus und Pessimismuskritik in der österreichischen Literatur“ Klaus Amann et al. Literarisches Leben 60-94.
6 Capitulant, the term used here, is an archaic German term for reenlistee.
7 See Buch, Nähe 11.
8 Following Sacher-Masoch’s own footnote the excerpt is from Chateaubriand’s poem “The Slave” in the German translation by Louise von Ploennies.