Dinesen’s Seven Gothic Tales Multiply Horror

Castle that looks like it belongs in a fairy tale

Isak Dinesen’s Seven Gothic Tales is a collection of stories too long to be short stories, too short to be novellas, and too depressing for anything. Andre Govia captures the mood in this photo.

Set primarily in 19th century Europe, they are part fairy tale, part philosophical treatise. The tales are usually told late on a dark night when a storm is threatening.

Several are set as stories within stories. In “The Dreamer,” there are actually four different stories, three of which are told at second- or third-hand — the literary equivalent of a story my cousin got from somebody at work.

My favorite story — the last! — is about a gentleman who loves the arts. The gentleman mentors a young poet. Thinking that a woman’s influence would be good for a poet, the gentleman proposes to a lovely young widow.

The poet and fiancée fall in love.

The poet shoots his mentor.

Dying, the mentor crawls to his fiancée’s feet. She picks up a stone and smashes him on the head with it while screaming, “You poet!”

After laboring through this book, I understand the impulse to murder someone for being a writer.

Isak Dinesen would be my first victim.

Seven Gothic Tales
By Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)
Modern Library edition
420 pages
1934 bestseller #10
My Grade: D

Photo credit: FairyTaleCas by Steve011

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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