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Seven Gothic Tales

3.98  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,009 Ratings  ·  148 Reviews
Originally published in 1934, Seven Gothic Tales, the first book by "one of the finest and most singular artists of our time" (The Atlantic), is a modern classic. Here are seven exquisite tales combining the keen psychological insight characteristic of the modern short story with the haunting mystery of the nineteenth-century Gothic tale, in the tradition of writers such a ...more
368 pages
Published 1988 by Penguin (first published January 1st 1934)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jan 25, 2016 Dolors rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of puzzles and tongue twisters
Shelves: read-in-2015
Dinesen’s world is a dark fairytale, painted with the hues of slowly unveiled fantasy reminiscent of the Grimm Brothers or Edgan Allan Poe’s horror tales. Unlike the former though, Dinesen’s sophisticated, poised prose acts like a charm that transfixes the reader through its receding succession of symbolic patterns that defy the classic boundaries of limiting the tales by beginnings and endings. Set in the 1830s, times of unrest and change in Europe, there is no such thing as a linear timeline o ...more
“But as to names and places, and the conditions in the countries which it all took place, and which may seem very strange to you, I will give you no explanation. You must take in whatever you can, and leave the rest outside. It is not a bad thing in a tale that you understand only half of it.”
- Dinesen, “The Dreamers”

This is the attitude with which one must approach the stories of Isak Dinesen. It’s that or you’re never going to finish this book. As several of her characters protest to us: “To
1. The first story, "The Deluge at Norderney," proceeds largely by way of monologues. It is set in the 1830s at a resort island off the northern coast of Germany, Norderney. A once in a hundred years storm occurs which requires the evacuation of the spa and surrounding farmsteads. Eventually we find ourselves with four characters in the loft of a farmhouse where they must await rescue with the water ever rising. Will they survive until morning when a boat is expected to rescue them? It is in thi ...more
Feb 15, 2014 Uncle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is no other writer quite like Karen Blixen. Publishing under the pseudonym of Isak Dinesen, her reputation rests mostly on her on famous memoir Out of Africa and several books of elegantly-written, enigmatic stories. As a Dane writing in English, her prose has a formal, somewhat mannered, tone. The stories themselves are beautiful and strange, like fairy tales for grownups.

Blixen’s first book of stories Seven Gothic Tales was published in 1934. The author does not use the term ‘Gothic’ in
Oct 13, 2015 Rosana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008, favorites
These tales are like nothing I have read before. Isak Dinessen’s – nom de plume of Karen Blixen – narration feels like a walk through a labyrinth, where the unfolding story thread makes sharp turns, leads us into dead ends and dark corners, until finally we emerge on the other side a bit unsure of the place we have been. Like in a dream, one story merges into another, taking us along into deeper realms. And, with hypnotic powers, the narrator’s voice enchants and enslaves us.

I absolutely loved
Jul 06, 2010 Miriam marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I have had this book out from the library for several weeks, but every time I open it, the phone rings. I think it is cursed.
Sep 26, 2007 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dineson really writes like no one else.. not even her worthy heirs like Angela Carter or Rikki Ducornet..or those she inherited from like Potocki or E.T.A. Hoffmann..simplely some of the most otherwordly and beautiful writing in the world. Words fail me.
Aug 15, 2011 Bev rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, gothic
Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) has been a very difficult read for me. Gothic novels are not, by rights, my usual reading fare but I was drawn to this book by the very intriguing Introduction written by Dorothy Canfield. So, I grabbed it right up at the Friends of the Library Booksale. And then, when I gave into temptation and signed up for the Gothic Reading Challenge, it seemed only natural to add this one to the list. My goodness, I didn't know what I was letting myself in f ...more
Jan 14, 2013 Jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Traveling alone in a strange country, as you pass through a dark pine woods, you see an abandoned, half-ruined castle through the trees. Entering it, and walking through hallways hung with faded crimson and paved with black marble, you catch a glimpse of yourself in a tarnished mirror. But another face looks back at you, skeletal. In a great hall, upon a stage, tattered golden curtains are drawn back and many-coloured marionettes come forward. The story has begun. This is the world of Isak Dines ...more
May 06, 2016 Cheryl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first story is the best. The rest I just could not get into.
Sometimes less than crystal clear, perhaps because of English being a second language for the Baroness Blixen (a.k.a., Isak Dinesen), the stories still conjure the Gothic mood with great success. We certainly owe her lover, Denys Finch Hatton, for encouraging her natural narrative talents that have provided so much pleasure to those who love literature. Her work expects a lot of the twenty-first century American reader, since she liberally includes unattributed and untranslated quotes in French, ...more
Jul 26, 2015 Nikoline rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gothic lit. readers
Recommended to Nikoline by: no one
I absolutely adore Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen); her writing is delicate and vivid, and do not get me started on her "Out of Africa", but I must say that even though I have been meaning to read "Seven Gothic Tales" forever, it was nothing like "Out of Africa" in any way. The writing was different, less vivid and the majestic pictures Blixen paints with her words seemed like watercolour; hardly visible on the paper.

“People love to be frightened. The great princes, fed up with the sweets of life,
Apr 30, 2013 Clare rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I suspect that this is a book I will have to re-read in the future. I had to put it down many times just to try and remember all the twisting and turning threads that spilled over from one story to another. Don't be mislead by the title - this isn't simply seven gothic yarns but rather a great coiling mass of tales coiled up upon one another. As soon as you are consumed by one you will find yourself chewed up and spat out by others. Tales within tales within tales within tales - it can be a litt ...more
May 03, 2016 Travelis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perfect "summer reading" if ...
— you enjoy Classical Literature, prefer a world, place, and time before electronic addiction, cell phones, twitter, social media, and freedom from homicidal freeway driving, and can reject anything resembling modern "pop" entertainment requiring a PC mindset, and find comfort in writing that employs proper, albeit "dated" grammar, couth, correct and refined dialogue, and include stories refreshingly devoid of graphic sex and gratuitous violence. Or, if you eschew
A. J. McMahon
I have found that Isak Dinesen is not for me. She is very literary, in fact too literary; she tries much too hard to be clever and witty, which made it impossible for me to get past her prose style into the stories themselves. The stories themselves could have been alright, in fact in the hands of a master short story writer like Guy de Maupassant they would have been stunning, in terms of the characters and the setting and the events, but as already said, she tries too hard to be clever to allo ...more
Karen Margrethe
Feb 18, 2015 Karen Margrethe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With all these seven tales, in gothic style, she explores the human nature and character, fate, love, faith, observations about the contemporary society, beauty, the inevitable transitory mortal frames of human life, vanitas symbols, womanhood, norms, gender role and simply human roles in general.
In an artistic way, she is commenting on society and mankind.

Her writing and narrative style is as peculiar and otherwordly as it is genius, as was her life style and character in real life. She has be
Apr 28, 2008 Dfordoom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read the first four stories in Isak Dinesen’s Seven Gothic Tales several years ago. I have no idea why I then put the book aside, since I liked those stories quite a bit. I’ve now read the last three tales, and I’m even more impressed. Isak Dinesen is probably better known today under her real name, Karen Blixen, thanks to the success of the movie version of her book Out of Africa. Seven Gothic Tales, published in 1934 when she was 49 years old, was her first book. Oddly enough, although she w ...more
Eduarda Sampaio
Sete Narrativas Góticas não é um livro de leitura fácil. A escrita de Karen Blixen é bela e requintada como sempre, mas aqui ela vem carregada de descrições que por vezes parecem excessivas. A atmosfera é pesada e sombria. Os personagens contam histórias a outros personagens e dentro dessas histórias outras histórias são contadas. O leitor é jogado dentro de um labirinto narrativo e frequentemente esquece por onde entrou, muitas vezes chegando ao final de conto sem compreender o seu propósito.

May 05, 2009 Bruce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who has not been charmed and haunted by the opening line of Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa: “I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong hills…”? That was the only work of Dinesen (the pseudonym of Karen Blixen) that I had previously read, and I was interested to read her earlier work, Seven Gothic Tales, which has long languished on my bookshelf. The latter is a collection of several long short stories, or short novellas, each with a surprising and even disconcerting twist. Each is well writ ...more
I wanted to like this collection a lot, since Winter's Tales made such an impression on me. Alas, these stories didn't appeal to me as much. The writing was still excellent, yes, though I took great issue with the passage in "The Monkey" where Boris thinks that women hate the sea. From her writing you can tell that Dinesen loves the sea - why would she write such a passage? Maybe I will find a reason to reconcile those blasphemous words. The ending of "The Old Chevalier" was legitimately creepy, ...more
Difficult book to review. Well written, smart, labored. Not my turf though. Some stories are better than others, of course. The last one, particularly, "The Poet", I found quite interesting - a somber tale about age, talent, frustration, power. But the whole set is a sort of anachronistic "Hoffmanesque" effort that sounds quite artificial when one sees it was written way into the 20th century. It is like composing a Beethoven concerto in 1900 (if anyone thought about Rachmaninoff that was the id ...more
Nick Jones
May 09, 2016 Nick Jones rated it really liked it
I’m not sure what makes these stories ‘Gothic’. They are all set in the past, the first half of the Nineteenth Century; two of them bring in the uncanny or supernatural in a matter-of-fact way; but I’m not sure if that makes them Gothic. But, for me, their most noticeable characteristic is the excess of narrative...or maybe the celebration of narrative is how I should put it. These stories are not slices of atmosphere or explorations of an incident: Karen Blixen would have no place at Katherine ...more
The stories in this book were ok. They didn't leave too much of an impression on me. The tales were supposed to be in a Gothic vein, but they just couldn't get there.
Apr 19, 2016 Sinem rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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Oct 22, 2009 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Each tale is like a polished jewel, very gothic and yet very modern at the same time, and much food for thought. 'The Supper at Elsinore' I enjoyed the most. I finished the book late last night, with a bottle of red wine, in front of the fire, in an empty house (S is off on a field trip), before going to bed.
Exotic, baroque, fantastic... Dinesen's voice is unmistakable and distinct. Fate plays a major role in these tales. Her prose is eloquent -- these stories stay with the reader for a long, long time.
Birgit Alsinger
Far too gothic for me, I loved "Babettes Feast" and "Out of Africa" but these seven story were really, really hard to finish, found my thoughts drifting away all the time.
Cody VC
3.5 stars. stand-outs were 'the old chevalier,' 'the roads round pisa,' and 'the poet.' honorable mention to 'the deluge at norderny.' reading these was a bit like looking through an old photo album where the people look familiar but their names are gone, and you wish you could talk with them because with faces like those they must have led interesting lives--only here you can talk with them, and they've got almost too many names for you to remember and each story they tell is taller than the la ...more
Jan 22, 2012 Yi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Any book that feels like it was "worth it in the end" isn't a good read during the actual reading. This was too layered for my taste: inset stories were everywhere; extraneous details and plots made my head spin; melodrama abounded. Potentially, these are hall,arks of the era in which Dinesen (Karen Blixen, she of _Out of Africa_ fame) was writing.
Am I glad I read it? Do I feel accomplished? Sure. Would I have been able to complete it on my own, if I didn't have a grade and a discussion for cla
Apr 05, 2014 Sarah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Read the first two stories before giving up. Enjoyed neither on any level. Too dense, nothing happens but flashbacks, and those flashbacks are, I assume, not true. Its just people telling each other embroidered stories of past loves or adventures. The language also seemed repetitive, which is why I didn't stop after one story. Forced a second, just to see if it would be different - it was not. Same theme, felt like same characters, telling stories of the same type made up events.

I started 'Out o
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Pseudonym used by the Danish author Karen Blixen.

Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke (Danish: [kʰɑːɑn ˈbleɡsn]; 17 April 1885 – 7 September 1962), née Karen Christenze Dinesen, was a Danish author, also known by the pen name Isak Dinesen, who wrote works in Danish, French and English. She also at times used the pen names Tania Blixen, Osceola, and Pierre Andrézel.
Blixen is best known for Out of Afri
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“Do you know a cure for me?"

"Why yes," he said, "I know a cure for everything. Salt water."

"Salt water?" I asked him.

"Yes," he said, "in one way or the other. Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea.”
“The real difference between God and human beings, he thought, was that God cannot stand continuance. No sooner has he created a season of a year, or a time of the day, than he wishes for something quite different, and sweeps it all away. No sooner was one a young man, and happy at that, than the nature of things would rush one into marriage, martyrdom or old age. And human beings cleave to the existing state of things. All their lives they are striving to hold the moment fast....Their art itself is nothing but the attempt to catch by all means the one particular moment, one light, the momentary beauty of one woman or one flower, and make it everlasting.” 29 likes
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