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My Fantoms (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – August 5, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Gautier was a leading writer of the Romantic movement and forms a bridge between the supernatural fiction of Goethe and E.T.A. Hoffmann and the pivotal pulp magazine Weird Tales."-Cynthia Ward

"Théophile Gautier was one of the most important writers of fantastic tales in France during the Romantic period."-The Modern Language Journal

"It is in Théophile Gautier that we first seem to find an authentic French sense of the unreal world, and here there appears a spectral mystery which, though not continuously
used, is recognizable at once as something alike genuine and profound." -H. P. Lovecraft

Gautier writes "...stories of remarkable artistry, rich in irony and nostalgia, in which the subtle play of passion with terror is expressed in a precise, elegant prose style." —The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror & the Supernatural

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (August 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159017271X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590172711
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #305,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Gary Severance VINE VOICE on August 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
The New York Review of Books publishers continue their great series of classics revivals with My Fantoms by Theophile Gautier. The short stories were published in France from 1832 to 1867 and are wonderfully introduced, translated, and updated by Richard Holmes. The stories involve the undead and unholy manipulating and interfering with the lives of adolescents, painters, clergy, journalists, actors, tourists, and poets.

Gautier's style is romantic, humorous, and ironic and quickly involves the reader in the fantasies of the characters. These fantasies often occur in dreams that lead to temporary or permanent madness. They are worth the stress, though, because of the sexual ecstasy and obsessive love that often result.

There is a fundamental tension in each story between the characters' rational work and irrational experiences. Holmes points out in the Introduction that the tension is somewhat autobiographical. Gautier was a hard working journalist who wrote a weekly column for a Paris publication for thirty years and also was a free spirited author of many works of fiction. My Fantoms' cover art represents the two beautiful Italian sisters Gautier loved: one was an opera singer who lived with him and shared his day to day routines, and the other was a dancer who traveled internationally frequently sending him love letters.

Holmes writes in the Postscript that the seven stories are strange and mysterious implying they are somewhat difficult to interpret from a rational point of view. But, in the following passage from the story "The Painter," Gautier shows the reader how to understand the characters' experiences in all the stories. "...he was capable of becoming one of the greatest of our artists; but instead he only became one of the strangest of our madmen.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Christopher on December 11, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Richard Holmes clearly loves Gautier, and is doing his best to introduce these long-neglected works to a contemporary audience. And I enjoy the collection. But...

First of all, there is, in neither English nor French, such as word as "fantom." I wish Holmes would either use the French word "fantôme" or the standard English "phantom." The fake word is used throughout the translation, and it is really grating. Secondly, the stories have all been retitled on the basis of the stage of life, profession, or hobby of main character of each ("The Adolescent" "The Priest" "The Opium Smoker" etc), which gives the impression that Gautier himself created a work that is a tour of "fantoms" (ugh) haunting people in various aspects of society. He did no such thing. In some ways, this reminds me of the translations of the 18th and 19th century, which were more concerned with capturing whatever the translator thought was the essence of the work, rather than what was literally there. Holmes is not that free, but still...

Acknowledging all of these issues, I still recommend this collection. Gautier is a wonderful writer, as far as I can tell more appreciated in English-speaking countries than in France, where he seems to be considered a fairly shallow writer who just happened to be aligned with/an inspiration to almost all the major authors of his day--so much for French criticism. And in English-language countries, he's almost entirely known these days for Mademoiselle de Maupin--and only for its famous Preface, at that! These are superb stories in the Hoffmann style, and maybe superior to them in terms of penetrating social analysis (though Hoffmann is so wonderful, it's hard for me to see him as secondary to anyone).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert Connelly on January 6, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a collection of six intriguing ghost stories and an eloquent tribute to a dead friend. The stories are an interesting compliment to the classic English ghost stories by masters such as M.R. James or H.R. Wakefield, in that they are written in an ironic tone, and they feature ghostly characters who return to life in search of love.

The images Gautier presents are vivid and painterly. Gautier has a special gift for describing color, texture and motion. The volume also includes two beautiful essays from Richard Holmes, that are a pleasure to read in and of themselves.
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