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The Best Tales of Hoffmann Paperback – April 1, 1979

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776-1822) was perhaps one of the two or three greatest of all writers of fantasy. His wonderful tales, translated into many languages and adapted into numerous stage works, have delighted readers for a century and a half.
They open our eyes to an extraordinary world of fantasy, poetry, and the supernatural. Remarkable characters come vividly to life. With exciting speed, Hoffmann moves from the firm ground of reality to ambiguity, mystery, and romance. His imaginativeness is unsurpassed, and his handling of allegory, symbolism, and mysticism is unusually skillful. These qualities make his tales some of the most stimulating and enjoyable in the world's literature. They can be read on many levels of enjoyment; as exciting fiction brilliantly told, as a fascinating statement of many of the major concerns of the Romantic era, and as a culmination of German Romantic literature.
This collection contains ten of his best tales: "The Golden Flower Pot," "Automata," "A New Year's Eve Adventure," "Nutcracker and the King of Mice," "The Sand-Man," "Rath Krespel," "Tobias Martin, Master Cooper, and His Men," "The Mines of Falun," "Signor Formica," and "The King's Betrothed."

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 458 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; First Edition edition (April 1, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486217930
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486217932
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #515,186 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Philip Challinor on October 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann was born Ernst Theodor Wilhelm - he changed his name in honour of Mozart, and music was his first and possibly greatest love. He was a brilliant critic, a talented painter and caricaturist and, by all accounts, a very serviceable composer. All these elements - music, the pictorial sense, and the critic's sharp probing intelligence as displayed in the present review - feed into the stories, which perhaps is why they turned out to be his most lasting achievement. The ten in this collection are tales of the fantastic (Hoffmann is also credited by some with inventing the detective story with "Madame de Scudery", not included here, which predates, and may have influenced, Edgar Allan Poe's pioneering efforts in the genre) and include the four which provided the basis for Offenbach's opera. The style, like Mozart's, is bright, energetic and often comic; the substance, as with caricature, mixes the bizarre with the mundane in a fashion quite unlike that of anyone else you've ever read, even among Hoffmann's batallions of readers, followers and imitators. The general effect is strikingly original, often disturbing, sometimes hilarious and, not infrequently, loony - not at all what one would expect from the last of the German Romantics. This volume also boasts several illustrations scrawled by the author, a helpful introduction by E F Bleiler, and Dover Books' usual robust construction and reasonable pricing. Like Lord Dunsany, Hoffmann has been prized more as an influence than a writer. His work has certainly had an incalculable influence on modern fantasy fiction, as well as the detective story, science fiction and the 19th-century "novel of ideas" (Dostoyevsky noted Hoffmann's psychological insight as an influence on his own). But his own best work falls into none of these categories, inventing them all in the service of the author's vision - the mark of a true original, and the best possible reason to read Hoffmann for himself.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A. G. Plumb on November 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
E T A Hoffmann was no ordinary man. He started life as a composer and then moved to writing stories. There are several of his sketches reproduced in this book and these show flashes of great talent too (you can see one on the cover). Hoffmann's influence is enormous in the musical world (Tchiakovsky, Delibes, Offenbach, Wagner all drew inspiration from Hoffmann). And there is something timeless in these stories even into the 21st century - there are psychological puzzles, studies of behaviour and myth, stories of automata that Philip Dick, Cordwainer Smith or Isaac Asimov would have been proud of, there are links not surprisingly into the world of music (you mustn't miss 'Rath Krespel') and the world of art (see 'Tobias Martin, Master Cooper'). Somehow Hoffmann makes ancient technologies and methods fresh and exciting - barrel making, sailing, alchemy, mining. Unfortunately the most famous of Hoffmann's stories (Nutcracker) is one of the weakest for me, and the one with the greatest reputation ('The Golden Flower Pot') suffers in this anthology by a translation that didn't engage me as well as those of other stories. My favourite stories are 'The Sand-Man', 'Rath Krespel' and 'Tobias Martin'. Here's a brief quote from 'Tobias Martin' that appealed to me especially: 'It sometimes happens that the deepest sorrow, if it can find tears and words, dissolves into a mild melancholy, so that perhaps even a gentle shimmer of hope begins to beam faintly through the heart.' Hoffmann is often sentimental but this is more than offset by an unpredictable exoticness.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Neutiquam Erro on April 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
Hoffman is an undiscovered genius - mad perhaps - but definitely a genius. Of course, he was quite well known in the Nineteenth Century, garnering a well-deserved reputation as a writer of bizarre, macabre, gothic tales full of the unexpected and unexplainable. Originally written in German, these tales are mined from the same dark rich earth that gave birth to Goethe and Kafka, Jung and Freud, Hegel and Mesmer - something of a heavy burden to carry.

This volume, consisting as it does of the "best" tales of Hoffman, contains a wealth of eclectic stories peopled with fractured and tortured characters. It includes, of course, the well known story of the Nutcracker and the King of Mice, although your typical ballet lover might find the story a shade darker and more menacing than contemporary stagings of Tschaikovsky: Godpappa Drosselmeier is a somewhat sinister figure, for example. Still, the tale of the Nutcracker is light fare when compared to works such as the Mines of Falun in which a sailor turns miner at the urgings of a shadowy mentor and pledges his soul to the underworldly Queen of the Mine. This tale becomes more and more sinister with the black pit of the mine eventually swallowing the protagonist in a rock fall, exacting revenge on him for falling in love with human woman. The tale ends when his petrified body is recovered 50 years later.

Of course, all is not as it seems in most of these tales. They can be read as fanciful fairy tales - albeit very dark, adult ones - or they can be seen as investigations of the dark areas of the human psyche, at the edge of madness, where vaguely unusual events suddenly become twisted into disturbing patterns.
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