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Seven Gothic Tales Paperback – December 3, 1991

30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"These tales are a modern refinement of German romanticism. ...They are peopled, or haunted, by ghosts of a past age, voluptuaries dreaming of the singers and ballerinas of the operas of Mozart and Gluck, young men who are too melancholy to enjoy love or too perverse to profit by it, maidens dedicated to chastity and others hopeful of a gentlemanly seduction; their generally fantastic adventures are exquisitely played."

-- The New York Times

"[Seven Gothic Tales is] in that special realm in which artistry is more real than reality" -- Time

From the Publisher

11 1.5-hour cassettes --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (December 3, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679736417
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679736417
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #233,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 57 people found the following review helpful By L. Stearns Newburg on May 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Years ago, I wrote a review on Amazon for Karen Blixen's _Winter's Tales_, where I observed that it was the equal of this book. I have no reason to revise that estimate, but feel I should point out that this book is extremely fine, and should not be ignored by people who like good writing and aren't scared off by a bit of melodrama.

The title of this review tries to make a small point: Blixen didn't write her stories with notions of the prevailing literary fashions in mind. She wrote them as she felt them, and she used a style and technique that harken back to earlier writers. In her introduction to the book, Dorothy Canfield, attempting to characterise this style, made reference to an array of writers from E.T.A. Hoffmann to Robert Louis Stevenson and Thomas Mann. Although I think the reference to Mann has merit, the truth is Blixen was genuinely unique. She doesn't really have any real imitators, either, although I've seen a number of writers allude to being influenced by her.

Back to this book: it was her first volume of short stories. Not many writers hit gold on their first book, but Blixen managed it. There was no 'prentice work as prelude, just a stream of mature works of art from this book onward.

And, goodness, she could *write*. The prose is eloquent, forceful, and full of striking phrases, images, and observations. The stories are all set in the 19th Century, and many contains elements of the gothic (hence the title) and sometimes the gruesome, as well as modernist irony and psychological insight. When it comes to characters, plots, and situations, virtually everything in the book seems beyond the ordinary. Clearly, the writer wasn't afraid to take chances. The amazing thing is that she wins most of her fictional gambles.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Victor Valentine on March 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
Why isn't I. Dinesen's work more widely known and accepted in the modernist pantheon? Her reputation seems to have settled into that of oddball literary personality and vehicle for Meryl Streep, however the work itself would have eluded me, despite a decent education in high school and university (for example, I was given Hesse and Camus to read in 10th grade, why not Isak?)had I not been attracted to this title in a dusty library. The work is about as anti-Hollywood as I could possibly imagine. Perhaps the answer is, she is not really a modernist but some sort of high baroque romanticist belonging more in the 19th century world of German prose; the "layering of stories" effect, especially in "Roads to Pisa", reads like she is channeling the world of Jan Potocki, enigmatic author of "The Saragossa Manuscript," who like Casanova moved in that incredible world of the international bohemian intellectual elite that Rexroth describes so well somewhere in one of his essays; that world of post-chaises and midnight rendezvous and military officers with seemingly endless resources of money, brains, education and cunning ... in fact "Saragossa" and Casanova's "Memoirs" were the books that came to my mind as I read her...reading this stuff is like eating a chocolate eclair with a brain more powerful than yours will ever be...why aren't there writers like this anymore? Was it all only a dream?
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Laurie on October 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
I sometimes try to decide which is my favourite Isak Dinesen book and always after a lengthy quandary settle on "Seven Gothic Tales". These long stories, constructed with the most unassuming virtuosity, leave behind the same feeling of mingled enchantment, wisdom and sadness as reading Shakespeare or her countryman Hans Christian Andersen.

The author was Karen Blixen, a coffee-planter in Kenya who wrote the wonderful "Out of Africa", (which has little in common with the movie.) But as Isak Dinesen, she moved through an imaginary but meticulously evoked late-18th century Europe, where the paradoxes of love and fate, innocence and disillusion, order and dream, are played out gracefully and remorselessly.

Where did she get her stories from? I feel as if I never had to read them, as if I have always known them. Artificial and stylised yet almost unbearably true, they linger like music and burn like ice.
I envy anyone who has yet to read them.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
Such melancholy has been portrayed in these stories, so dark, yet exquisitely sweet. The characterisation is incredible, I could feel the emotions of the characters - loss, frustration, hope and fear as I read, the mood of the book enveloped me. The tales are almost timeless, set in a dark and dreary Europe, moving slowly yet they were not laborious, rather they were sensual. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to curl up by a fire, in the middle of winter, and wants to be alternately delighted and dismayed.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By theta on March 30, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved "Out of Africa", which I read--on Hemingway's recommendation--long before the silly movie adaptation existed. This is quite different, except that in both that book and this book Karen Blixen proves herself a master (mistress?) of English prose-- which is all the more surprising considering that English was not her native tongue (apparently she was more than fluent in several languages).

I've decided the "Gothic" in the title means, not to put too fine a point on it, that these are essentially horror stories--but they're muted horror stories that unfold at a very leisurely pace and discursively. They're also oozing erudition and steeped in the sensibility of the early nineteenth century. Most of them involve a weave of subsumed and parallel tales, a thing which tends to try my patience as a reader--and mostly why I've docked the book a star. (The only work I know which comes close to it in this respect is Stanislaw Lem's "The Cyberiad", and I actually recommend tackling that first to test your tolerance for nested stories.)
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