Coxy's Reviews > Tales of Hoffmann

Tales of Hoffmann by E.T.A. Hoffmann
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Oct 06, 2011

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Read from October 06 to 12, 2011

A hangover from my university days, I'd always intended on reading "The Sandman", a short story about a malevolent wizard (I'd suppose you'd call him that) who kills the narrator's father in a strange ritual involving the harvesting of human eyes. So far so good. The child who witnessed the murder grows up to be a somewhat disturbed adult, who in a letter to a friend insists he has seen the murderer in the city where he now studies (the wizard escaped from the original crime scene, never to be seen again, or so everyone thought). It is also around this time that the narrator becomes obsessed with the daughter of a man who lives across the road from him, who rarely speaks or even moves, and has an inexplicable stiffness in her movements...

The Sandman was so good I also read the other short stories in this collection. The jewel in the crown is Mademoiselle de Scudery, which charts the various exploits of the eponymous heroine - an elderly novelist who goes about solving crimes in Paris. Scrub the Paris part out and you basically have Murder, She Wrote. The Introduction to my edition points out that it has a fairly strong claim to be the first work of detective fiction, predating Poe's The Murder on Rue Morgue by over 20 years. So a significant piece at the very least.

Hoffman was not a great writer, but he had some great ideas. Often when striving for an effect his powers of expression and range of vocabulary failed him a bit (there are around three "uncanny"s on every page) but as a bit of a guilty pleasure, this one takes some beating.
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