Sex and Eros

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Author: Janko Lavrin
Editor: Jennifer Baise
Date: 1999
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 4,171 words

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[(essay date 1935) In the following essay, which was originally published in 1935, Lavrin discusses the writings of the Russian thinker Vassily Rozanov and Weininger's Sex and Character, observing the influence of both on D. H. Lawrence.]


Among the pioneers of the erotic trek in recent European literature two writers can be mentioned who are so conspicuous as private "cases" that they cannot help arousing a general interest. One of them is the Russian thinker and publicist, Vassily Rozanov; and the other--the Jewish renegade Otto Weininger whose book, Sex and Character (as well as his subsequent suicide at the age of twenty-four), had caused a considerable stir at the beginning of the century.

What surprises one, at the very outset, in the work of Rozanov and Weininger is their all-absorbing scrutiny of the deeper aspects of sex. Both writers regard sex--whether rightly or wrongly--as the cardinal problem of man. Yet the final attitudes at which they arrive are irreconcilable. Their quest--a quest equally sincere in both and, with all that, leading to such a difference in conclusions--makes a comparison between the two seekers the more tempting and interesting. This interest is enhanced by the light the comparison itself can shed on certain dilemmas of modern consciousness in general. Moreover, in contrast to the cold and "clinical" explorations of sex on the part of Marcel Proust, the passionate metaphysical propensities of Rozanov and of Weininger make one think of D. H. Lawrence whose query can best be approached through these two men.


Rozanov, some of whose writings have already appeared in English, was a fragmentary, self-centred and self-contradictory individual, displaying a thousand masks, and also a peculiar capacity for mixing even sincere reverence with a cynical chuckle. Endowed with a rare psychological insight, he felt at ease only when rummaging in the most complicated shades of man's subconscious and half-conscious inner chaos. And the deeper he dived in its mazes, the more eager was he to dwell with gusto on what might be called (for lack of a better expression) psychic and spiritual underwear. He wallowed in it, examined it almost with a microscope, and at the same time delighted in unfolding it before his audience with a vocabulary full of winks, grimaces, suggestive stutters and smiles.

His very language has thus brought a unique personal accent into modern Russian literature. This accent is increased by the "naive" impudence with which he exhibits his own inner deformities. Never bothering about the distance between himself and his readers, he is usually anxious to catch his ideas on the wing, and to present them while they still trepidate with the most intimate personal experience.

This may perhaps explain the apparent unconcern with which Rozanov tackles the riskiest themes during his excursions into the essence of sex, of morality, or of the voluptuous aspects of asceticism--exposed with great penetration in such works of his as The Dark Image and The People of Moonlight. The curious point however is that the farther he...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420024096