Fantastic Tales: Visionary And Everyday

Fantastic Tales: Visionary And Everyday

  • Publish Date: 1997-10-28
  • Binding: Hardcover
Regular price $60.95 Sale price $24.48

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Compiled by Italo Calvino, one of the essential writers of the twentieth century (and editor of the best-selling Italian Folktales), Fantastic Tales is a rich and wide-ranging collection of twenty-six classic, uncanny tales from the nineteenth century written by an intriguing panoply of European and American authors. Master storyteller himself, Calvino has contributed an informative introduction to the collection, and an engaging prcis to each story.

As Calvino writes in Fantastic Tales, which traces the genre from its roots in German Romanticism to the ghost stories of Henry James: "The fantastic tale is one of the most characteristic products of nineteenth-century narrative. For us, it is also one of the most significant. . . . As it relates to our sensibility today, the supernatural element at the heart of these stories always appears freighted with meaning, like the revolt of the unconscious, the repressed, the forgotten. . . . In this we see the modern dimension of the fantastic, the reason for its triumphant resurgence in our times."

Fantastic Tales is a fantastically canonical anthology assembled by an editor who, in the words of Salman Rushdie, "possesses the power of seeing into the deepest recesses of human minds and then bringing their dreams back to life. "

Italo Calvino's works include The Road to San Giovanni, Numbers in the Dark, Six Memos for the Next Millennium, The Baron in the Trees, If On a Winter's Night a Traveler, Invisible Cities, and Mr. Palomar. Calvino died in 1985. The brilliant Italian writer Italo Calvino (1923-1985) compiled Fantastic Tales: Visionary and Everyday, a historical overview of great fantastic literature of the 19th century. Many of his 26 selections are from well-known authors (Sir Walter Scott, Honor de Balzac, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Ivan Turgenev, Guy de Maupassant, Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, and H.G. Wells), but Calvino largely avoided their best-known stories; the only inclusions likely to be familiar to many Americans are Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," and H.G. Wells's "The Country of the Blind." The remaining contributors range from moderately well-known to obscure. So the reader who purchases Fantastic Tales gains not only an intelligently annotated anthology of superb fiction, but, in one pleasant sense, a collection of mostly new stories.

Interestingly, some of the finest stories are by authors least known in America. Thophile Gautier's beautifully written, wrenchingly ironic "The Beautiful Vampire" establishes the traditions for romantic vampire fiction. Mrime's "The Venus of Ille," a tale of culture clashes (Parisian and rural, ancient classical, and contemporary Christian), is sharp, well-written, and uncommonly horrific. With the gorgeous "A Lasting Love," the sole woman contributor, Vernon Lee, paints the most vivid portrait of obsessive, transcendent, destructive love.

Caveat: Calvino's introductions sometimes reveal more of the plot than readers will like. --Cynthia Ward

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