The first time I read Hoffman's short stories was in art school, where our main professor's most obsessive obsession was German Expressionism (which IThe first time I read Hoffman's short stories was in art school, where our main professor's most obsessive obsession was German Expressionism (which I love), a natural extension of German Romanticism (which I also love). They were a total revelation, especially because--more than, say, English-language Gothic writing a la Edgard Allan Poe, all which I also love--we were all blown away by the 'depth' of psychological insight. Sometimes it was almost uncanny, as if Hoffman's writing leaned literally close the nerve. Billed as 'fantasy' and 'horror', these stories actually are in line with themselves, crossing over into early 20th Century surrealism. It's easy to see how he influenced so many luminaries of other artistic forms--such as ballet creators or Hitchcock.
Now, rereading and continuing to read each and every one of his short stories--and IN Germany!--I notice things I missed 20 years ago. Like the similarities with, for example, Freud and even Kant. And the intense connection to that infamous and always present German 'Angst'.
'The Sandman' is, of course, a masterpiece, but I think my favorite is 'Doge and Dogaressa'. These stories have bite and need to be read more than once, which I plan to do. But I think I will try next one of his novels, see how he blends his sarcastic viewpoint in a long form....more