CARNIVAL by Isak Dinesen


Entertainments And Posthumous Tales
Email this review


An arresting group of the late Danish author's stories which have been hitherto unavailable here in beak form (only three tales are translated from the Danish; Dinesen wrote mainly in English). The title story is a sparkling if sinister masque that introduces the self-mocking icy wit of an octet of 1925 Copenhagen sophisticates shimmering in wealth and restless ennui. One comments on their remove from the reality of evil and attendant grime: they are "exiled from the dark . . . shut out from the pit." But they are interrupted in the middle of a fanciful lottery plot (the winner will take all of the others' worldly goods) by a self-styled murderer with a pistol, who demands money. But it is the gunman who is seduced into the bright circle he abhors--and the winner gains a dazzling mark of evil. There is a mythic homily: in "Last Day" as death, thrice demonstrated and reflected, beomces a "strangely enlightening experience." And several stories conclude with wicked surprises: in "Uncle Seneca," a young girl becomes the instrument of her father's revenge and an old man's deliciously awful secret; an executioner of the French Revolution and a Marquise's granddaughter exchange deadly destinies; and in "Second Meeting," Lord Byron's double sketches out his future. Also: a brace of relatively light-hearted family comedies, a detective story, and "Anna," a hearthside picaresque tale of lovers in Old Italy, a miniature novel with a dying fall; Dinesen apparently planned--but did not execute--a happy ending. Dinesen's richly mannered, baroque narrative gives both distance and space to the stuff of fairy tales and imaginings and a somber ground to the fantastic.
Pub Date: Sept. 27th, 1977
ISBN: 0226153045
Page count: 354pp
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1977


NonfictionLETTERS FROM AFRICA, 1914-1931 by Isak Dinesen
by Isak Dinesen