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Der Sandmann

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  10,266 ratings  ·  478 reviews
Unter Hoffmanns Werken hat Der Sandmann das weitaus größte Interesse gefunden. Sein Grundproblem ist die Selbstverfallenheit des Menschen, der aus dem Gefängnis seines Ichs nicht mehr herausfindet, deshalb in seinen Lebensbeziehungen, vor allem in seiner Liebesbindung tragisch scheitert und am Ende sich selbst zerstören muß.
Paperback, 83 pages
Published 1986 by Insel Verlag (first published January 19th 1816)
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May 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Classic that first described Schizophrenia

E.T.A Hoffmann was way before his time, when he wrote "The Sandmann" in 1816. He describes the development of schizophrenia to its worst consequence, at a time where it wasn’t recognized as a psychological disorder yet. Only after Sigmund Freud used this novel in his thesis 100 years later to show the exemplary development of such a disease, it became a masterpiece of analysis.


Nathanael writes about his severe childhood trauma

As a child Nat
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
Brilliant book starting with a kid's fear of the sandman. Problem is the 'sandman' concept never truely disappears but comes again and again haunting Nathanael. Why is advocate Coppelius or the weather glass hawker Coppola associated with 'evil principle'? Is there something supernatural at work and did Coppelius really kill his father? Nathanael insults his soon-to-be wife Clara as 'lifeless automaton' as she gives a rational explanation on his fears. But what about Spalanzani's daughter Olimpi ...more
Vit Babenco
Apr 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“There is no Sandman, dear child,” replied my mother. “When I say the Sandman's coming, I only mean that you're sleepy and can't keep your eyes open – just as if sand had been sprinkled into them.”
There is something very special in the tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann – two centuries have gone but they still remain enigmatic, startling and morosely nocturnal.
“And now Nathaniel saw that a pair of eyes lay upon the ground, staring at him; these Spalanzani caught up, with his unwounded hand, and flung int
I read this rather (no very) creepy tale years ago, and while I truly enjoyed and above all appreciated E. T. A. Hoffmann's Der Sandmann, I also do not much feel like a detailed and intense rereading at this time, as the plot, the thematics actually repeatedly produced some rather vivid and glaring nightmares when I perused it, first for a German Romanticism course in undergrad and then later for my PhD Comprehensive Examinations (I still recall that there were dancing mechnical maniacal dolls, ...more
Oct 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this wonderful story (novella) in a collection of stories/novellas titled, “Five Great German Short Stories” (edited and translated by Stanley Appelbaum). I wrote my review of each of the five stories for that collection, but wanted to add a brief comment regarding Hoffmann’s work here…
I will try and refrain from giving away the plot or the story line because that’s a good chunk of the fun of reading, eh? What I did was write down some notes for each of them, and the following is a smatte
Gerasimos Reads
Nov 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, university
The work of a genius! Very creepy and enjoyable to read, but at the same time extremely intelligent and multilayered.
Nov 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“If, like a bold painter, you had first sketched in a few audacious strokes the outline of the picture you had in your own soul, you would then easily have been able to deepen and intensify the colors one after the other, until the varied throng of living figures carried your friends away and they, like you, saw themselves in the midst of the scene that had proceeded out of your own soul.”

We had to read The Sandman for our literature seminar. I was looking forward to it. I had never read anythin
Sep 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I felt sick to my stomach throughout most of this. There’s nothing overly supernatural, creepy, or terrifying - just a horribly unsettling undercurrent of tension and dread running underneath each word. It’s a marvel.

Hoffman’s skill here isn’t in depicting ghouls or demons, but in showing us the effects an encounter with such (whether perceived or otherwise) can have on the human psyche. Our protagonist is plagued by a situation from his childhood, and subconsciously seems to seek this out in hi
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This famous German classic is 200 years old. And yet, with the current research interest in robotics and AI, it's more up to date than ever before.

The events of this short story are up to numerous interpretations - which seem to be a favorite pastime of those studying German literature - but basically 'The Sand Man' is the chronology of a mental illness.

A young college student named Nathanael recalls a traumatic childhood experience after running into a man who reminds him of the person who caus
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)
The antiquated language and over-wrought prose on offer here will likely turn off some readers. I don’t necessarily prefer this sort of writing, and I don’t care to read it terribly often (despite my enchantment with classic horror and speculative fiction). However, part of me enjoys these elements at the same time as finding them hard to tolerate when I am not in the mood for them. Rather a contradiction, but there you have it. There’s something about the way this taste of antiquity takes me ba ...more
Nov 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have never read any of ETA Hoffmann and this gothic German horror tale is a good introduction. Nathanael’s slow road to madness brought about by his fathers death to who he saw as the Sandman. The Sandman is a bogeyman who sprinkles sand on children’s eyes and they pop out if the child does not go to sleep. I am glad my mum left this fairy tale out of her stories when I was a child! I cannot help thinking insomnia could be linked to a few fairytales.

Nathaniel has a loving girlfriend and goes
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream
Make him the cutest that I’ve ever seen
Give him the word that I’m not a rover

I'm sorry but that's all I can think of right now and now the song's stuck in my head :)))) Toodles!
Nathanael’s childhood is haunted by the mysterious figure of Coppelius, a lawyer-friend of his father who regularly turns up at their house for night-time alchemical sessions. Nathanael associates Coppelius with the mythical Sandman, the legendary being said to steal the eyes of children who refuse to go to sleep. When Nathanael’s father dies as a result of an experiment gone wrong, this ominous mental link is sealed once and for all. Years later, with Nathanael now a university student, unwelco ...more
Such a short but brilliant book. I remember hating it when I was forced to read it back in school but somehow ended up loving it even back then- I choose to write my final examination about its characters.

Rereading it, I'm still amazed by Nathanael's story. Although the book is rather short, it offers a lot. Beginning with the retelling of a horrible incident in his childhood, it proceeds to show how this early incident shapes his years as a student. Nathanael is the prime example of a youth in
... what did I just read?!

This is so many kinds of disturbing that nightmares are inevitable. How ironic.

I freaking loved it, by the way.

For a short story, there's several layers of creepy, and there's no black and white so part of its genius is in how many questions you're left with at the end.

I want to know MORE.

I mean, surely we've all heard of The Sandman, right? The creep who throws dust in children's faces to get them to sleep?

Well,this delightful little short story, along with my fas
Lydia Presley
Original review posted here

There is absolutely no reason for people to avoid reading this story. First of all, it’s short – about 30 pages (and the ones I read were TINY pages). Secondly, it’s so. freaking. amazing. Seriously! Read it! Now I’ll tell you why.

For my Seminar in European Literature this semester we are studying the “uncanny” – what the word means, how to define it ourselves, how it’s defined in stories, and we’re reading all sorts of fantastic things like Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Freud’
Althea Ann
Nov 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
About the title story only...

E.T.A. HOFFMANN, The Sandman

Remarkably modern-feeling in theme, probably because lately we've had quite a few writers harking back to this kind of story. The sinister traveling merchant Coppelius/Coppola, selling his 'eyes-a' is reflected in “Ilse, Who Saw Clearly” by E. Lily Yu, for example. And of course, the whole steampunk genre loves to explore the idea of clockwork automata.
To a modern reader, the structure of the story flows a bit oddly and unevenly, a
Czarny Pies
Aug 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: german-lit
If you were to read only one story by E.T.A. Hoffman this might be it. The Sandman is one of the three tales to figure in Jacques Offenbach great opera and presents in a very forceful fashion several of the great themes that dominate Hoffman's work.

In this work, Hoffman poses third great questions. The first is what is the effect of childhood fears on our later lives. The second one is why do some individuals pursue illusions when better options in the real world are at hand. The last question i
Shima Masoumi
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
I started reading Hoffmann with this book and I think it’s a good introduction to his works and his way of thinking. The book is about a guy lost between reality and dreams. In this book he deals with industrialism and what’s happening to us as human beings. Hoffmann’s an early romantic and his way of narrating the story is one of a kind and amazingly symbolic. Freud has written an essay on this book but I don’t really recommend it cause it’s super phallocentrique and in my opinion not really wh ...more
Edwige Pitchoune
This book is insane. Traumatised a whole class of high school students, including me!
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Sandman has a bit for everyone, although it’s the dark chocolate pack, not your average Easter basket.

One side of it is that Hoffmann writes tales for adults. Many of us learn to let go of the monsters that would surely come to punish us should we be naughty. Nowhere is the transition as clear as it is here, as Hoffmann builds upon the granny scaring young Nathanael with the story of the Sandman and builds him into a monster that feeds on narcissism, obsession and vanity, when Nathanael beco
Aug 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this. I've never read anything by E.T.A. Hoffmann before (the Sandman is part of my assigned reading for a class I'm taking this semester) but it was a really good read. Reminded me of Frankenstein in a lot of places (Nathanael's actions and letters basically screamed Victor Frankenstein to me as well as the origin of him and Clara's relationship) especially with the whole 'how far can we go with science and technology in terms of humanity' thing that Olimpia represented. The am ...more
May 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
I am a German native and used to the style this book was written. However, I did read it in English and have to say this was an excellent translation.

The story itself suited my taste in "creepy" books. It started with the letters written to Nathaniel's friend Lothar. It made me curious how Hoffmann will unravel the story and if he chose to have a happy ending.
At times I felt Stephen King might have borrowed from him, since it reminded me a bit of his stories.

An entertaining short story with a d

If you, like me, have grown up watching Das Sandmännchen before going to bed, you know that this story hits wayyy different - but good different. Yes, the old-fashioned syntax may be a bit difficult to get into at first if you don't read a lot of 19th century German, but I love how modern the effect of horror is that Hoffmann achieves. I wish Nathaniel's family background and relationship with Clara and Lothar had been developed a bit more, because as it stands they're rather one-dimensional
Anna Luce
Perhaps the translation is to blame but I find this to be a rather banal short story. The narrative definitely plays around with notions of the 'uncanny' but ultimately it seems to me a somewhat old-fashioned Gothic story (we have an unmanned narrator 'presenting' us with letters documenting the 'strange' events they are about to relate). I didn't like anything about this story. We have descriptions such as 'child-like child'? and a character who may or may not be Italian who says 'eyes-a'. Ther ...more
Nov 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had my eyes on it for a while (my plan was to read in German back when I had to read some German novels; glad I didn't read it back then though, because a) I don't know that much German and b) I think it's even better in English (I can't compare it though, but I mean that I understand it now more I think than when I read it in German). KarinaE (over at Booktube) read it and ever since I wanted to read it too, so I was really excited when I found out it was going to be published in this edition ...more
Ezgi Tülü
"If there is a dark power which malevolently and treacherously places a thread within us, with which to hold us and draw us down a perilous and pernicious path that we would never otherwise have set foot on - if there is such a power, then it must take the same form as we do, it must become our very self; for only in this way can we believe in it and give it the scope it requires to accomplish its secret task. If our minds, strengthened by a cheerful life, are resolute enough to recognize alien
Barnaby Thieme
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
A masterpiece of horror fiction, which features a surprisingly modern and complex dialectical analysis of the plot events by the characters themselves, who divide into rationalist and subjectivist camps and offer a kind of running commentary on the story. I'm surprised it was never subjected to a book-length deconstruction by Derrida or Barthes.

The story is an unmistakable milestone in the formation of the modern conception of the unconscious. It tremendously impressed Freud and Kafka, is a cor
Read all my reviews on

This was a very strange story and not at all what I had expected. I recently also saw a ballet based on the story and it was much lighter than this. The Sandman was rather dark and slightly depressing. Interesting choice from the Little Black Classics because it was not something I would have normally put on my TBR.

~Little Black Classics #108~
Nov 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, suspense
Now that's how you write a thrilling story. All I knew about this before going in was that Sigmund Freud (who I've unfortunately studied to death) used this story as a piece of analysis for his own work and studies, which I found really interesting and is the main reason why I picked this up. And I totally understand why. This was a super morbid story detailing a man's descent into madness, essentially, before certain mental illnesses were recognised as such. I can only imagine how this book was ...more
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Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann, better known by his pen name E. T. A. Hoffmann (Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann), was a German Romantic author of fantasy and horror, a jurist, composer, music critic, draftsman and caricaturist. His stories form the basis of Jacques Offenbach's famous opera The Tales of Hoffmann, in which Hoffman appears (heavily fictionalized) as the hero. He is also the author of ...more

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“Perhaps, too, you will then believe that nothing is more wonderful, nothing more fantastic than real life, and that all that a writer can do is to present it as "in a glass, darkly".” 13 likes
“But if, like a bold painter, you had first sketched in a few audacious strokes the outline of the picture you had in your own soul, you would then easily have been able to deepen and intensify the colors one after the other, until the varied throng of living figures carried your friends away and they, like you, saw themselves in the midst of the scene that had proceeded out of your own soul.” 11 likes
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