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The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman Paperback – March 4, 1986

17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Angela Carter may well be the best British writer of her generation."
Mirabella

"Combines exquisite craft win an apparently boundless reach."
—Ian McEwan

About the Author

Angela Carter (1940 -1992) wrote nine novels and numerous short stories, as well as nonfiction, radio plays, and the screenplay for Neil Jordan's 1984 movie The Company of Wolves, based on her story. She won numerous literary awards, traveled and taught widely in the United States, and lived in London.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (March 4, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140235191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140235197
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #565,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Angela Carter (1940-1992) was the author of many novels, collections of short stories, plays, and books for children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Rasanen on May 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is one of Angela Carter's wildest and best novels, a verbal feast served up by the late writer's seemingly inexhaustible imagination. Erotic, picaresque, complex, surreal, and humorous only begin to describe the pleasures contained herein. The story revolves around Desiderio, who as a young man sets out to assassinate Dr. Hoffman, a genius waging war against an unnamed city by means of hallucinations or dreams produced with the "eroto-energy" of 50 copulating couples in his Wagnerian mountain castle. In his very Swiftian travels, Desiderio encounters a deserted seaside town, is arrested for a murder he didn't commit, and escapes with a bullet wound; is taken in by the river people with their strange, seductive ways who eventually try to sacrifice him; escapes again to sojourn with a traveling circus where he is raped by nine Moroccan acrobats who later fall off a cliff with the rest of the circus and a town of puritans (imagine that conflict); meets a megalomaniacal Count whose travels take him and Desiderio to Africa where the Count is boiled in a pot by a cannibal chieftain; spends time in a curious, religiously rigid culture of centaurs (Carter's most obvious homage to Swift). The novel is a satire of sexual mores, restrictions, fetishes, and hang-ups that only a writer as gutsy and opulently talented as Angela Carter could have attempted. As a work of art, it's all over the place, and you might not enjoy it unless you let it take you along for the ride. It makes a very suitable companion to her later, more disciplined novel, The Passion of New Eve.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 20, 1998
Format: Paperback
Having been introduced to Angela Carter through her short stories, I was curious to see what she would accomplish throughout a novel. The result was dizzying, disturbing, and compelling all the same. 'Infernal Desire Machines..' reads like a perverse Gulliver's Travels, moving from one hallucinatory terrain to the next. Potentially very disturbing to sensitive readers, I recommend this book cautiously. The book is aptly titled, and Carter delivers all the dark sexuality that it implies. Hint: Don't let your senator read this. Otherwise it is an engrossing novel, proving that Fairy Tales aren't all that Ms. Carter was about...
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Anacreon on February 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
This novel was my introduction to Angela Carter, and what an introduction it was! The novel was originally published (I believe) in the early 80's, and smacks of magical realism as well as profound dollops of surrealism and eroto-psychedelia. Carter's prose is dense and precise, intensive rather than expansive, but the images keep coming, and if anything, one can feel swamped in the flood of dreams, but in a satisfying way. Really, to say Carter evokes Burroughs or any other author may convey a reader's subjective impression, but Carter is on her own trip, a protracted journey through history and psyche, and an examination of the sensual magic of words and imagination made manifest in miraculous ambiguity and ambivalent sexuality. Her highly original prose style often feels like a good translation from another language - most of the action takes place in Latin America, and at times I was hard pressed to remember that I was not reading a Latin American author. This book is recommended, though not an easy read due to the density of Carter's prose and the depth of her philosophical examination of the roots of dream and imagination. But she takes you on a journey that within a few pages becomes irresistible, and takes you to places that surprise, delight, and disturb, and that you will not soon forget.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Michael B. Jones on July 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
Angela Carter's neo-Swiftian tale of Desiderio and his search for Doctor Hoffman is oftentimes so brilliant that it is mind numbing.
Through a surrealistic swirling pattern of images, illusions, allusions and memories, Desiderio, the narrator of the journey, travels through a wild range of cultures and attitudes on his philsophical journey to find Dr. Hoffman, the brilliant scientist whose mental images are slowly destroying any reality of the world. On his journey. Desiderio meets carnival folks, gentle river-dwelling natives, an animalistic whorehouse, a tribe of cannibals (or two), and in the best Swiftian fashion, a tribe of religious centaurs before finally reaching the Doctor's compound.
Through a skillful use of the erotic as philosophy, Carter takes us on a journey that makes us reconsider what our own views of the erotic, the realistic, the profane and the profound are, and how we justify them with every day life.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
As an Englsih major with a facination with cyberpunk, I think that this novel is fabulous!! In many ways the situations that Deserdio gets into remind me of the pratfalls and accidents of William Burrough's finest. Both share a vague sense of cause and effect--the reader in never sure how the character got into his situation or what he will have to do in order to get out of it. In many ways, I think Dr. Hoffman is a mix of ETA Hoffman and William Burroughs. Hoffman contributes the gothic surreality and Burroughs contributes the theme of escaping. Good luck! This is great. I love it so much I have two copies of it...one is sort of beat up.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mark Nadja on July 5, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
--Angela Carter has made of this novel her own infernal desire machine, assembling it from influences one can still easily recognize, including Sade's "Juliette," Lautreamont's "Maldoror," Swift's "Gulliver's Travels," and Voltaire's "Candide."

--If those influences are to your liking, then there's a better than average chance "The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman" will work for you.

--It worked for me more times than not, but I appreciate the richly crafted, highly metaphoric, baroque writing style Carter employs. It isn't a quick read and isn't intended to be. These are sentences that exist for their own sake, as things of beauty, and not simply to move the story along. They will seem tedious and over-written to many who are accustomed to reading novels for "what happens."

--"What happens" here is that an old man is recounting his picaresque odyssey as a young man in a long-ago war: a war to defend reality as we know it from the onslaught of villain who wanted to liberate it from all limitations, a.k.a., Dr. Hoffman.

--Basically, we follow our hero (Desiderio) as he makes his way through increasingly bizarre manifestations of "reality," warped in great part, by his own unleashed unconscious, as well as the unconscious of the woman he pursues, desires, and must ultimately confront in an erotic showdown--the beautiful, ever-changeable Albertina, who happens to be Dr. Hoffman's devoted daughter.

--The novel takes the form of Desiderio's adventures among one society of people (and creatures) after another, each living a different version of reality, as he gets closer to the source of the chaos: the castle in which Dr. Hoffman's infernal desire machines produce waves of disruptive energy generated by the most basic drive of all...
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