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CARNIVAL by Isak Dinesen


Entertainments And Posthumous Tales

by Isak Dinesen

Pub Date: Sept. 27th, 1977
ISBN: 0226153045
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

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.