Tales of Hoffmann by E. T. A. Hoffmann
E.T.A. Hoffman's wildly original fictions are some of the most unusual examples of German Romanticism's dark passions, and the stories in Tales of Hoffman are selected and translated from the German with an introduction by R.J. Hollingdale in Penguin Classics.
This selection of Hoffmann's finest short stories vividly demonstrates his intense imagination and preoccupation with the supernatural, placing him at the forefront of both surrealism and the modern horror genre. Suspense dominates tales such as Mademoiselle de Scudery, in which an apprentice goldsmith and a female novelist find themselves caught up in a series of jewel thefts and murders. In the sinister The Sandman, famously used by Sigmund Freud to illustrate both his concept of the unheimlich, or 'uncanny', and of Oedipal guilt, a young man's sanity is tormented by fears about a mysterious chemist; while in The Choosing of a Bride a greedy father preys on the weaknesses of his daughter's suitors. Master of the bizarre, Hoffman creates a sinister and unsettling world combining love and madness, black humour and bewildering illusion.
This edition contains authoritative translations of Hoffman's best stories. In his introduction, R.J. Hollingdale explores the background of these works and examines the duality of Hoffman's life - a lawyer by day and creator of a world of fantasy by night.
E.T.A Hoffmann (1776-1822) studied law and entered the Prussian civil service, but his over-riding ambition was to become a graphic artist and painter. He turned to fiction only in his thirties, living a Jekyll-and-Hyde existence as lawyer by day, author by night - and became one of the most influential authors of his time.
If you enjoyed Tales of Hoffman, you might also like Jorge Luis Borges's Fictions, available in Penguin Modern Classics.