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He was the godfather of modern horror, weird fiction, and fantasy, an inestimable influence on Poe, Dickens, and Hawthorne, de Maupassant, Stevenson, and James, left his fingerprints on “Frankenstein,” “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,” “Dracula,” and “The Turn of the Screw,” and inspired filmmakers from Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan to David Lynch and Fritz Lang (and films from “Dr. Caligari” and “Metropolis” to “The Matrix” and “Mulholland Drive”). Yet few horror fans have ever read his works. Many have never even heard his name. Today he is most famous for writing the dark fantasy that Tchaikovsky fluffed up into “The Nutcracker” and for his proto-Freudian masterpiece of existential terror, “The Sandman,” but his influence demands that we give E. T. A. Hoffmann a much closer look.
An expert at blending the ordinary and the uncanny, his stories were some of the first to feature supernatural invaders in a contemporary setting. Unlike Perrault or the Grimms, his macabre fairy tales aren’t in a land “far, far away” or “once upon a time” – they take place in the sooty, bourgeois streets of his own time, and involve grotesque and often malformed agents of chaos piercing through the veil of the invisible world to introduce moral mayhem into the bland existence of bored daydreamers. In Hoffmann’s worlds, the “real” world is the fake one – like in “The Matrix” or “Alice in Wonderland” – a superficial façade distracting us from recognizing the wonders and horrors of true reality. Tremendously complex and literary, his Gothic stories, dark fairy tales, and diabolical parables explore the relationships between reality and fantasy, reason and imagination, submission and inspiration, groundedness and sublimity, and spirituality and materiality.
His stories include tales of castles haunted by family curses, toys brought to life, erotic robots, sinister salesmen with malevolent motives, demonic Doppelgangers, cannibalistic pregnant women, lustful gnomes, hypnotic seducers, sleepwalking ghosts, men without shadows or reflections, and expansive worlds hidden behind the drab exterior of the ordinary prefiguring Hogwarts, Narnia, Wonderland, and Oz. His tales are famous for their blend of horror and allure, of ugliness and beauty, of reality and imagination. The swirl with the vertigo of a rich grasp of fantasy, darkened with inappropriate lusts, repressed urges, and unconscious motives. Deeply psychological and profoundly philosophical, they will shock and offend, but they will also soothe and inspire. These are the Tales of Hoffmann.
TALES INCLUDED in this ANNOTATED EDITION:
The Stranger Child | Nutcracker and the Mouse-King
The Golden Flower Pot | The Gnome-King's Bride
The Mines of Falun | Councilor Krespel | The Sandman | The Lost Reflection
Automatons | A Ghost Story | The Vampire | The Walled-Up Door
The Empty House