Derek Davis's Reviews > Weird Tales. Vol. I

Weird Tales. Vol. I by E.T.A. Hoffmann
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Jan 27, 2011

it was amazing

Dredging up old freebies for the Kindle can be well worthwhile. Good translation here, too.

I first read some of Hoffman's stories for a college class back in my dark ages. I can't remember anything from them back then, so I guess I wasn't ready.

These are gems, a hundred or more years ahead of their time and unique. If you read something of Hoffman's biography, you find that nearly all his characters are himself, his relatives, and the myriad women he panted after in his all-too-short but jam-packed life. A painter, a sketcher, a composer, a critic and a storyteller, there was little in the artistic world that he didn't try and, in most cases excel at. But his stories are what have stood the test of time. They are psychological studies with supernatural, fairytale and manic aspects, deceptively simple at start, constantly ready to conclude at points where they suddenly tear off in a new direction.

He uses music and visual art, more than other writing, as his metaphors and comparisons, and indeed, he paints vivid pictures and cadenzas in words. His characters are troubled, often half mad, tortured by love for women seen as romantically impossible visions (as was the case with Hoffman)--if there's a major fault in Hoffman, it's that his women are seldom if ever realized as complete human beings.

"The Sand-man" has to be the standout in this collection, a horror story on the surface that is actually a perfectly realized psychological study. Freud wrote an essay on it 100 years later, and no wonder: It encapsulates most of Freud in a few thousand words, decades before psychoanalysis existed. But on top of that, it's a rip-snorter of a story--crazed, brilliant, captivating and all-encompassing.

Wooee, I'm off to volume II.
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