A French-American perspective on politics, culture, current events, religion, languages, and education
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Venus in Furs...
For some reason, I never quite paid full attention to the lyrics of Venus in Furs by the Velvet Underground. I just liked the song for its lovely creepy obsessive music, and for this part :
I am tired, I am wearyI could sleep for a thousand years A thousand dreams that would awake me Different colors made of tears
But then I sort of missed this other part:
Kiss the boot of shiny, shiny leatherShiny leather in the dark Tongue of thongs, the belt that does await you Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart Severin, severin, speak so slightly Severin, down on your bended knee Taste the whip, in love not given lightly Taste the whip, now plead for me
Then of course, it became clear the song was about sadomasochism, bondage and submission. Not my cup of tea personally but I'm impressed nonetheless that it was even sold and played with those lyrics in .... 1967.
One thing leading to another, I found out that it is based on a novella of the same name by Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch published in 1870. "Severin" (repeated a few times in the song) is the name of the protagonist of the novel.
I knew that Sadism came from the French Marquis de Sade in the 18th century but had no idea masochism came from an Austrian author in the 19th century. And that guy was not even a cynic, he was a Utopian thinker who espoused socialist and humanist ideals. No, really,..... he wrote in a magzine supporting tolerance and integration for Jews (iin Saxony, quite an accomplioshment!) as well as the women's suffrage. He is also the great-great-uncle to British singer/actress Marianne Faithfull .
All that because I watched CSI.... .... which was dealing with sadomasochism (with Lady Heather) and played Venus in Furs.!
Somewhere beneath all the inane clichés that politicians and the media bandy about, there lies a true Franco-American relationship that stems from a deep appreciation and fascination with each other's language, culture and society. This is where we live, below the radar, exploring the mundane, finding pleasure in the details, and sharing our passion for another culture with our students. We are educators, teaching English in Paris and French in Boston. Trained and training at the Sorbonne and Harvard, respectively, we choose here to let our café conversation spill out onto the sidewalk. Others should feel free to eavesdrop or join the conversation through comments.