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Joan C. Kessler ( - )

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Demons of the Night : Tales of the Fantastic, Madness, and the Supernatural from Nineteenth-Century France (1995) - Joan C. Kessler (Editor) [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]


Demons of the Night (1995) - Joan C. Kessler (Editor)

From Publishers Weekly
"Dream is a second life," begins Nerval's classic, "Aurelia," and that is the theme illuminated by this memorable anthology of supernatural tales of 19th-century French fiction. Kessler has gracefully translated nine of the 13 stories and written an introduction that puts the stories in an historical context of the French Revolution, the Terror and contemporary scientific and spiritualist schools of thought. Stories by Balzac, Dumas, Maupassant and Verne delve into that gray slip of a space between dreams and wakefulness where somnambulism is not the exception but rather the rule. The anthology opens with the first English appearance of Nodier's stunning "Smarra," in which vampires and nightmarish images violate the landscape. In Balzac's "The Red Inn," a crime is committed by one man in thought and by another in deed. In Merimee's compelling "The Venus of Ille," a demonically beautiful statue comes to life to exact revenge on a man who pays her disrespect. Severed heads do not mean severed tongues in Dumas's "The Slap of Charlotte Corday," (also in its first English translation), an effective exploration of irrational terror evoked by the subconscious. These haunting tales are definitely not bedtime stories for the faint of heart. But for stronger sorts, this superb anthology is a literary tour of the phantasmagoric landscape of dreams. Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist
This compilation represents a noteworthy publishing event, "no selection of such stories in English translation has been made available thus far." Of the 13 (how appropriate) ghost stories selected, 9 represent new translations and 2 have never before been translated into English. Editor Kessler's introduction expertly sets the nineteenth-century French fantastic story within the broader context of French literary and cultural traditions of the time and introduces the career and significance of each writer whose work is included. There are such well-known masters as Honore{‚}de Balzac and Alexandre Dumas (whose story "The Slap of Charlotte Corday" is itself a slap, a jolting piece set in the time of the French Revolution and concerned with the continuance of life after the guillotine has separated head from torso), but there are also superb writers with whom American readers won't be as familiar, including Gérard De Nerval and Marcel Schwob (the latter's story, "The Veiled Man," a brief but pithy tale about a man on a train that is Poe-like in its brilliant depiction of the man's hauntedness). Fiction collections catering to sophisticated readers should purchase this volume without fail. Brad Hooper--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the publisher
Demons of the Night is a trove of haunting fiction—a gathering, for the first time in English, of the best nineteenth-century French fantastic tales. Featuring such authors as Balzac, Mérimée, Dumas, Verne, and Maupassant, this book offers readers familiar with the works of Edgar Allan Poe and E. T. A. Hoffman some of the most memorable stories in the genre. With its aura of the uncanny and the supernatural, the fantastic tale is a vehicle for exploring forbidden themes and the dark, irrational side of the human psyche.

The anthology opens with "Smarra, or the Demons of the Night," Nodier's 1821 tale of nightmare, vampirism, and compulsion, acclaimed as the first work in French literature to explore in depth the realm of dream and the unconscious. Other stories include Balzac's "The Red Inn," in which a crime is committed by one person in thought and another in deed, and Mérimée's superbly crafted mystery, "The Venus of Ille," which dramatizes the demonic power of a vengeful goddess of love emerging out of the pagan past. Gautier's protagonist in "The Dead in Love" develops an obsessive passion for a woman who has returned from beyond the grave, while the narrator of Maupassant's "The Horla" imagines himself a victim of psychic vampirism.

Joan Kessler has prepared new translations of nine of the thirteen tales in the volume, including Gérard de Nerval's odyssey of madness, "Aurélia," as well as two tales that have never before appeared in English. Kessler's introduction sets the background of these tales—the impact of the French Revolution and the Terror, the Romantics' fascination with the subconscious, and the influence of contemporary psychological and spiritual currents. Her essay illuminates how each of the authors in this collection used the fantastic to articulate his own haunting obsessions as well as his broader vision of human experience.


Introduction by Joan C. Kessler
Charles Nodier
Smarra, or The Demons of the Night
Honore de Balzac
The Red Inn
Prosper Merimee
The Venus of Ille
Theophile Gautier
The Dead in Love
Arria Marcella
Alexandre Dumas
The Slap of Charlotte Corday
Gerard de Nerval
Aurelia, or Dream and Life
Jules Verne
Master Zacharius
Villiers de l'Isle-Adam
The Sign
Guy de Maupassant
The Horla
Who Knows?
Marcel Schwob
The Veiled Man

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