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The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  2,586 ratings  ·  229 reviews
Desiderio, an employee of the city under a bizarre reality attack from Doctor Hoffman's mysterious machines, has fallen in love with Albertina, the Doctor's daughter. But Albertina, a beautiful woman made of glass, seems only to appear to him in his dreams. Meeting on his adventures a host of cannibals, centaurs and acrobats, Desiderio must battle against unreality and the ...more
Paperback, 221 pages
Published March 4th 1986 by Penguin Books (first published 1972)
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Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jun 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014

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.
Ian "Marvin" Graye
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.

...for now all changes would henceforth be, as they had been before, absolutely predictable.
My ongoing class of philosophy hindered as much as helped my reception of this, for I am as familiar with Big Name's rhapsodizing on freedom and reality and metaphysical stuff as I am sick of their standardized tools of female objectification and other exotification. I will likely reread this further on so as to ensure as careful attention to throughout as, in this initial encounter, only came forward
Apr 19, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
A crazy quest book, the narrator is sent on a quest to defeat the fiendish Doctor Hoffman whose peculiar desire machines are sapping the life from the entire country.

Rather like Oblomov this is a circular novel with the narrator returning to the starting point. I had the feeling that this book is allegorical and 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
Nate D
Nov 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nate D by: mark monday
Reading various of Carter's stories, essays, and novels since being dazzled by the visceral/conceptual density of The Passion of New Eve last fall, I'd enjoyed everything, but begun to despair of anything being so simultaneously compelling, fantastical, and symbolically loaded again. But fortunately this familiar-but-strange voyage across the haunted archetypal landscapes of desire could be even better. Angela Carter remaking classic stories is great, but forging her own from the detritus of ...more
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: somewhere-else, 2018

Doctor Hoffman is a villain of the 'cold genius' variety, and for most of this novel his presence is only evident through his nefarious actions. He has launched an attack on a nameless city and his weapon of choice is 'actualized desire,' which rends deep tears in the fabric of daily life for the city's citizens. Reality morphs into a series of unreliable and upredictable forms. The narrator-hero of the story is Desiderio, secretary to the Minister of Determination. The Minister, a perfect foil
Apr 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: theory-heads, hardcore Carter fans
Shelves: undergrad
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Reason cannot produce the poetry disorder does.’

The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr Hoffman marked a decided plateau in Carter’s career. I can see why.

Desiderio’s odyssey is not so much a sprawling adventure or surrealist quest for identity, it is a consciously grotesque, picaresque pastiche. The coiled eroticism and sensuality of Carter’s later works here strays into the masochistic, starring frequent casual rape and sanctioned paedophilia. Her bold, brutal prose is certainly not for the faint
May 23, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Invadozer Misothorax 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.
Gregor Xane
May 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
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.
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 ...more
Dec 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Well, that was... something. Exactly what, I'm not really sure I could tell. Structurally, it was like a demented picaresque novel, though narratively, you just couldn't tell what would happen next. And yet, there was this underlying ennui, which after some contemplation, I think was actually a writerly feat exemplifying Desiderio's disillusioned way of looking at the world. Either that, or maybe that's Carter usual modus operandi, I'll see when I read something else of hers. A myriad references ...more
Grace Harwood
Feb 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Amy Leigh
Sep 03, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: scififantasy
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
Jaina Bee
May 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
110915: somehow lost the original review- 2nd reading- first read this many years if not decades ago. original edition title in uk was 'war of dreams', which is exactly what this is about. if you have vivid, powerful, transgressive dreams. i was blown away...
Shaun Mendum
May 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Angela Carter never fails to both impress and confuse. Her 1972 picaresque novel is a science-fiction tale of blind love, surrealism, and liberation from modern ideologies. Desiderio, a man without imagination, is sent on a mission to seek the sinister Doctor Hoffman, who with the help of his infernal machines, has broken the rules of reality and blended physics with the transcendental. Wrong is right, right is left, Nebulous Time develops its own infrastructure and ecosystem, and a selection of ...more
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Sorry. I think this is a specific case of me having needs that I wanted this book to fill, but that the book itself does not want to fill. I don't blame either of us. I have to admit that I started reading this book because a cute person on OKCupid had it in her book recs. (I think that is the real purpose of OKCupid btw.) It sounded sexy. What I even mean by "sexy book," though, is the big question.

Lately I'm given to think about literature as a form of dating, in which both reader and book
Lesley Battler
Apr 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: keeper
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
Beware the Hoffmann effect! I should've heeded. I got here through this apparently increasing monomania for E.T.A. Hoffmann and how he exists outside his works which is, in a word, multifariously. This book is rich with reference to his characters and biography, to the point where I'm not sure why Carter chopped the second "N" off his name because when you're working so deliberately from that source you might as well give the direct reference proper spelling.

This is such a 70s surrealist
vi macdonald
Angela Carter might just be the best writer of the past century, and the fact that I’m only just now discovering her is both disappointing (especially given how underrated this book is) and incredibly exciting.
Aug 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
I described the last novel I read (Gold Fame Citrus) as hallucinogenic, which I realise now was premature as it had nothing on Angela Carter. ‘The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman’ reads like a man recounting a very long, weird dream in exacting detail. The plot ostensibly centres on a war between reality and Dr Hoffman, although you’re never really sure whose subconscious is to blame for specific events. There’s a density of referential familiarity that certainly feels dreamlike - De ...more
I'll admit, it took me a little while to get into this book given the strange mix of reality and illusion but once I did I really enjoyed it. Carter has created a world reflective of our own where the machines of Doctor Hoffman constantly create and show what we want and desire without it actually being real (sound familiar). Thrown into this is is the very real Desiderio who is unaffected by the illusions created by the machines don't effect him, instead he is tortured by his love and desire ...more
Mar 18, 2011 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jan 02, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Dec 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
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!
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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 Paul Carter.
“I desire therefore I exist.” 106 likes
“I am entirely alone. I and my shadow fill the universe.” 87 likes
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