Hoffmann is among the greatest and most popular of the German Romantics. This selection, while stressing the variety of his work, puts in the foreground those tales in which the real and the supernatural are brought into contact and conflict. The humour of these tales is a result of the incongruity of supernatural beings at large in an ostentatiously everyday world. They include The Golden Pot, recognized as Hoffmann's masterpiece by himself and posterity; its spine-chilling companion tale, The Sandman, which Offenbach drew on for his opera Tales of Hoffmann, and which Freud examines in his essay `The Uncanny'; two longer and more elaborate fantasies, set respectively in Germany and Italy; and the late story, My Cousin's Corner Window, which shows the powers of the imagination being applied to everyday urban life, and marks a transition in European literature generally from Romanticism to Realism.
Ritchie Robertson's detailed introduction places the stories in their intellectual and historical context and explores their compelling narrative complexities.
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av Ana Huang