The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman
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The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  1,351 ratings  ·  108 reviews
The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, published in the United States as The War of Dreams, is a 1972 novel by Angela Carter. This picaresque novel is heavily influenced by surrealism, Romanticism, critical theory and other branches of Continental philosophy. Its style is an amalgam of magical realism and postmodern pastiche. The novel has been called a theoretica...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 4th 1986 by Penguin Books (first published 1972)
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Community Reviews

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Reason cannot produce the poetry disorder does.

So be prepared to throw your rationality and causality expectations overboard as you embark on this literary journey through a 'dangerous wonderland', following the peregrinations of one young man named Desiderio who tries to put a stop to the reality altering attacks coming from the renegade and possibly mad scientist, Dr. Hoffman. As an added incentive, Desiderio is also chasing a personal chimaera, the beautiful daughter of Hoffman - Albertina....more
Ian Paganus
Is This the Thrill of Metaphysics?

"The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman" ("TIDM") is a picaresque metaphysical thriller that is both intellectually stimulating and hugely enjoyable.

To the extent that it's philosophical, there's a risk that it might read like lecture notes. However, I never felt like I was being lectured to. The metaphysics was always absolutely integral to the plot, perhaps because it concerned the metaphysics of desire, and Carter's novel is primarily about desire.

I'm baffled by the other reviewers calling this book "erotic" or "sexy." Yes, there's a lot of sex; but at least 90% of it is rape in one form or another, including some episodes of child rape. If you find this book sexy, there is something seriously wrong with you.

This book reminded me of Burroughs's Junky or Cohen's Beautiful Losers, in that it is sexually explicit in a fantastical and determinedly grotesque and cruel way. I get the feeling that writers like Carter, Burroughs, and Cohen are...more
If you are a fan of fantastic (i.e. surreal, fabulist), transgressive literature (think Lautreamont's "Maldoror," a work duly referenced here), this is a must-read. Though my copy is missing the final pages (!), I was bowled over by the first 216 I read. A feminist cross between Swift's Gulliver's Travels and Kobo Abe's Secret Rendezvous (all three feature anthropomorphized horses, by the way), those looking for something shocking, intelligent, and entertaining will find much to appreciate here....more
Invadozer Saphenousnerves Circular-thallus Popewaffensquat

It seems some editor thought War of Dreams is a better title for the Americas than The INFERNAL DESIRE MACHINES OF DOCTOR HOFFMAN which is the UK title...stupid editor!! My copy says "WAR OF DREAMS" but I am choosing to ignore it. bleaaa..

I can't say enough about this great book. I could fill up a book bubbling over this thing, but I will pull my horses to make these simple hopefully coherent snorts.

It's such a treat each sentance and every word. I rolled it over in my brain before digesting it....more
Gregor Xane
Relentless, bizarre image after bizarre image, sandwiched between descriptions of violent sexual acts, sprinkled with beauty and black humor. The writing was a heady combination of the formal and baroque. Truly unbelievable that such a variety of hideousness could be packed into so little space. Five stars for sheer audacity.
i read the last few pages of this book sitting on my front porch drinking a beer. it was pretty nice out and i was determined to get through this book, the first chapter and last chapter were compelling enough but the six chapters between were a mindfuck that i would have rather not read.

who wants to read about centaurs raping some lady? maybe some of the dan savage readers. maybe.

but the thing i will remember most about this book was on the last two pages. these two neighbor kids came out of t...more
Jan 04, 2009 Jamie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: theory-heads, hardcore Carter fans
Shelves: undergrad
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lesley Battler
In The Elegant Universe Brian Greene suggests string theory could harmonize quantum mechanics with Einstein's special relativity. This theory posits that besides the three spatial and one temporal dimensions of our accustomed existence, an additional seven infinitesimal dimensions are compressed throughout the universe.

Thus, immense possibilities we can scarcely even conceptualize lie within each location and moment. Furthermore, some scientists also speculate that miniscule time dimensions may...more
Jaina Bee
Jun 06, 2008 Jaina Bee rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: untanglers of riddles, wordsmiths
Recommended to Jaina Bee by: Maya
The tension between reason and passion in this book makes me feel like I'm being pelted by champagne snowballs while sitting in a hot tub of Mexican cocoa. Carter is a wicked, wanton wordsmith; a cerebral chanteuse of the silent opera that is a novel.

It is bitterly difficult to find a decent copy of this book (in the US, at least). The fuzzy, fading print of the edition pictured may thwart all but the most devoted readers. But if you're of the party that considers the brain the most potent love...more
I was both excited and terrified to read this book - I love subversive literature, but I'm not fond of reading about sexual assaults. I knew going in, from others who have read her work, that rape was a common occurrence in her books, so I simply braced myself. It wasn't as bad as I thought, because the surreality of the book lessened the visceral brutality of the assaults. As for the rest of the story, I was wavered between being really interested and pretty bored. I found the narrator rather t...more
I was recommended this after asking for something along the lines of Mervyn Peake's "Gormenghast", only written by a woman. And while I don't think this was an accurate comparison on the part of the employee, I'm glad he made the recommendation.

This is a strange book. The plot involves a dream-making machine that is changing the fabric of reality, and a young man who ends up pursuing the elusive man who is behind it. What makes it weird is Carter's predilection for symbolism and strange sexual s...more
In terms of popularity I am astonished at how undervalued Angela Carter seems to be. Apart from the secret life of academia, where Carter is rightfully or wrongfully regularly exorcised by excited students, she remains a mystery to much of the literary world. There are a few reasons why I think this: Carter's intelligence: which shines so bright it makes ordinary prose seem possibly devolved in comparison. Everything about her prose is erudite, esoteric, erotically intellectualised, so much so i...more
Erik Graff
May 18, 2009 Erik Graff rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
This novel is a mix of fantasy, science fiction and what the author may have thought was eroticism. I found the fantasy too outrageous (she mixes several traditions, losing, I think, the power that one might have provided), the science fiction too fantastic and the eroticism completely uncompelling. Still, in a note from the time of reading the thing I find penned "sf novel--good", so it gets at least three stars.
Braden A.
Oct 18, 2007 Braden A. rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of philosophical sci-fi
This quasi-philosophical science fiction with an erotic twist is a strange movel to say the least. But it is incredibly interesting, and very well written by Carter who has a very definite style.

It's not the type of book one can breeze have to read and think about every word, and the possible subtexts, double meanings and allegories inherent in every section.

It's challenging, but rewarding.
ATTN: Haruki Murakami

Read The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman. Take notes. Learn from it. That is how surreality is done.

What a brilliant book. One of the best I've read. HIGHLY recommended to everyone who loves great prose and playing with the laws of reality.
Grace Harwood
This book is strange, unnerving in places, and sometimes a bit "out there" but I cannot emphasise enough how much I loved, loved, LOVED this book. Angela Carter's prose is like ice water tinkling over a crystal stream - it is sharp and enervating and makes you question everything you thought you ever knew about humanity.

There is so much going on in this book - at face value it is a series of picaresque incidents which lead the hero, Desiderio "The Desired One", a man of lowly social status to sa...more
"I did not understand her but I nodded, to save face."

Indeed. Except I am not even attempting to save face. I simply didn't get what Carter was trying to accomplish here. I GET get the plot, but I don't GET get the artistic purpose of it all. I know that her books often are proto/pro-feminist, but the degradation that the women face here is a little off-putting. Perhaps the seeming contempt for the female characters is simply a manifestation of what all Doctor Hoffman's do to women. Perhaps thes...more
Alexander Popov
Ревюто е публикувано за пръв път в онлайн списание "ShadowDance".

Адските машини за желания на доктор Хофман на Анджела Картър най-вероятно ще бъде една от най-добрите книги на родния пазар за тази година. И то не просто във фантастичния жанр, а изобщо на книжния пазар. Мога да си позволя да напиша това, въпреки че не следя особено зорко българското книгоиздаване, просто защото книгата е твърде, твърде добра. Картър е сред най-значимите писатели на английски език за миналия век, а тази нейна твор...more
Amy Leigh
this book is very smart. as a friend of mine and i used to say, 'it's very meta.' it's a story, but it seems to be a story that's just a big complicated metaphor for a lot of intellectual concepts that are popular in literary criticism, like the male gaze and subject/object relationships.

the person who recommended this book to me describes it as one of his favorite books of all time. so i tried extra hard to be passionate about it. but the protagonist is emotionally detached from everything, and...more
Rather like Oblomov this is a circular novel with the narrator returning to the starting point. As the book is allegorical I wondered whether it was about the construction of the self with the male and female leads representing the animus and the anima, in which case nothing really happens in terms of the exterior/outer/real world, the development and the journey would actually only be internal to the narrator.

Thinking about the novel as a journey through the self leading to the emergence of an...more
Ana Silva Rosa
Prose style: 5
Plot: 4
Depth of characters: 4
Originality: 5
Entertaining: 4
Emotional Reaction: 4
Intellectual Stimulation: 4

This book's awesome! It's extremely original and well written.
So why I am not rating it 5? Because:
1. The plot line was captivating - but a few pages were tremendously boring!
2. The ending was great, but it could have been a little more explored - I mean, he's talking about America's origins for like 50 pages and then the so wanted climax only occupies 10?
Dec 24, 2007 Megan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those into super highbrow british pomo scifi
Doctor Hoffman aims to take over the world by dismantling time and implanting reality with surreality/ our desires made real. published the same year as Anti-Oedipus, hard to know if she's pulling from D&G's desiring machines or what, but the two are definitely linked.
fantastic sequences include: oh i don't want to spoil it.
bold, visionary, original, funny, dense, etc.
hooray for angela carter!
Aaron Jansen
It’s becoming apparent that Angela Carter’s primary weakness as a writer is her inability to write characters. Because her books are essentially extended intellectual inquiries, her characters always feel very constructed and symbolic and it’s hard to feel anything for them. Her verbosity could also be considered a flaw, but for me it’s a part of her unique appeal. She wouldn’t be the same if she weren’t constantly risking going overboard, if she weren’t always trying to cram enough ideas and im...more
Rebekah Bergman (Editorial Intern, Tin House Magazine): I am diving into Angela Carter’s The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, a novel published in the US as The War of Dreams in 1972. In it, a super-villain wages war against an unnamed Latin American city by distorting reality. Needless to say, it is a highly theoretical novel, steeped in post-modernism, post-colonialism, and feminism. Carter possesses a unique ability to stage complex theoretical questions without losing sight of her...more
First Second Books
This is simply a brilliant book. It is lyrical and poetic, and it contains more imagination that the complete works of some authors. On the level of line-by-line reading, the prose is simply gorgeous, but the story holds together as well. Highly, highly recommended - should be considered a masterpiece.
Страхотии. Секс, насилие, философия, литература, фантазии и желания. Много е добра - в убедителността на крехкия свят, който създава и уж е нашият; в скоковете във времето и пространството; в привидното неумение на разказвача.
This book was like reading a Salvador Dali painting in text. Parts of it were really interesting, engaging, philosophical and creative, but after a while it all got to be too much work: too hard to figure why it was all going on; too hard to know what, if anything, it meant anything; too hard to care about the characters. The structure reminded me of Gulliver's Travels, where the protagonist is going to various places and having a little adventure before moving on to the next. I would recommend...more
Imagine, if you will, the Wizard of Oz books written by a combination of Sigmund Freud, Jonathan Swift, William S Burroughs and the Marquis de Sade and you might get an idea of this wonderfully beautiful nightmare of a book.

The story is neither here nor there (but mostly there) and is essentially a fairy tale quest in which a young man leaves his home town and battles through over-grown forests, across seas and deserts, over mountains and meets outlandish characters, all to rescue his beloved w...more
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From Wikipedia: Born Angela Olive Stalker in Eastbourne, in 1940, Carter was evacuated as a child to live in Yorkshire with her maternal grandmother. As a teenager she battled anorexia. She began work as a journalist on the Croydon Advertiser, following in the footsteps of her father. Carter attended the University of Bristol where she studied English literature.

She married twice, first in 1960 to...more
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“I desire therefore I exist.” 61 likes
“I am entirely alone. I and my shadow fill the universe.” 47 likes
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