The novel is a serio-comical fictional romp through the Habsburg Empire of the fin de siècle, beginning in 1874 Lemberg (present day Lviv/Lvov in Ukraine), continuing to Vienna, and ending in the Habsburg Adriatic seaport of Trieste in 1912.
Along her way, the protagonist, the daughter of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch encounters luminaries of the Empire’s cultural elite, including Gustav Klimt and his models Adele Bloch-Bauer and Emilie Flöge, Gustav and Alma Mahler, Sigmund Freud, Theodor Herzl, the Princess von Thurn und Taxis, Rainer Maria Rilke and others, in each case providing the reader with new, seemingly first-hand insights into these real-life individuals’ characters and thought, not to mention the protagonist’s own long and sometimes tortured personal development and emotional maturation.
Its title notwithstanding, The Masochist is a delight and immensely rewarding to read: witty, energetic, erudite, profound, and all of a piece.
Michael Biggins has been contributing to the promotion of Slovenian literature in the US for a number of years. He is an affiliate professor at the Slavic languages and literatures department of the University of Washington and the head of the Russian and East European collection at the university’s library. His translations include works by the likes of Vladimir Bartol, and Tomaž Šalamun.
NOMINATING LIBRARY COMMENTS
Masochist is the first novel by a notable and award-winning Slovenian poet and columnist. In the novel, we meet the main character, who is a fictional adopted daughter of the Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, after whom sexual masochism was named. It is a portrait of a young determined woman who wants to shape her own life path and is not stopped by the socially delineated boundaries of women’s freedom and women’s desires. It is also the story of the ossified Austro-Hungarian and its vibrant and prosperous capital Vienna, of the complex political, social and cultural relations of the late 19th century, and of the famous personalities who marked that time and place. Mariborska knjižnica, Slovenia