Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor…

The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (Penguin Modern Classics) (original 1972; edition 2011)

by Angela Carter

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7341112,734 (3.79)26
Title:The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (Penguin Modern Classics)
Authors:Angela Carter
Info:Penguin (2011), Kindle Edition, 292 pages
Collections:Your library, Kindle

Work details

The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman by Angela Carter (1972)


Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 26 mentions

English (10)  Swedish (1)  All (11)
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Beware the Hoffmann effect! I should've heeded. I got here through this apparently increasing monomania for E.T.A. Hoffmann and how he exists outside his works which is, in a word, multifariously. This book is rich with reference to his characters and biography, to the point where I'm not sure why Carter chopped the second "N" off his name because when you're working so deliberately from that source you might as well give the direct reference proper spelling.

This is such a 70s surrealist novel--if someone asked me what 70s surrealism looked like in its good and bad parts, I would hand them this. Particularly in the pseudo-avant-garde sexuality, where body parts are sort of divided up and hyper-sexualised, and where paedophilia gets sanctioned by the storyline, and there's rape and kinky brothels and it's all just grotesque and not that interesting, and I'd like it if we were a little more over that, culturally.

That said there was a lot going on that did keep pulling me in. The writing itself is often beautiful, very rich and strange. The divides between the rational and irrational would've delighted Hoffmann, and the idea that reality might not be so stable definitely got into my head and my dreams afterwards. It just doesn't have me rushing to read Carter again. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
While many of Angela Carter’s short stories and novels are delightful, bizarre, and twisted takes on fairy tales and genre stories, some tend more towards the dark, disturbing, and random. I’d probably put a bunch of stories and The Passion of New Eve in the latter category as well as this one, The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman. It has a very episodic, random feel, like an old-timey picaresque. There are also a lot of disturbing elements – for example, there is more than one gang rape in the book (err…there’s a centaur gang rape, for those who want to avoid that). The Passion of New Eve had a random feel and lots of bizarre sex and violence, but in that one, I felt there was a strong feminist thread running through the narrative, the author upended a lot of stereotypes, and it was more coherent in its focus on various aspects of an apocalyptic America. There wasn’t as much of that in this one – the stereotypes stayed stereotypes. For example, although the two main characters and One True Lovers, the narrator and Albertina, are both described as non-white, there are multiple characters who are portrayed in a “stereotypical native” way. I also didn’t find the book as cohesive as The Passion of New Eve, even with links to the main Albertina/Dr. Hoffman plot. It was still involving and had Carter’s wonderfully descriptive language, but not her best effort.

I thought the first chapter, describing the War on Reality, was superb. I was expecting something random, but was still a bit disappointed that Carter didn’t focus on that thread. In fact, after the initial chapter, the narrator encounters people and groups who are pretty much unaware of what is going on in the city. The narrator, Desiderio, is a dedicated but rather colorless bureaucrat. He describes how things in the city turned topsy-turvey – a plague brought down by the formerly believed-dead mad scientist Dr. Hoffman.

“The Doctor started his activities in very small ways. Sugar tasted a little salty, sometimes. A door one had always seen to be blue modulated by scarcely perceptible stages until, suddenly, it was a green door.”

But there’s no denying this incident – “During a certain performance of The Magic Flute one evening in the month of May, as I sat in the gallery enduring the divine illusion of perfection which Mozart imposed on me and which I poisoned for myself since I could not forget it was false, a curious, greenish glitter in the stalls below me caught my eye. I leaned forward. Papageno struck his bells and, at that very moment, as if the bells caused it, I saw the auditorium was full of peacocks in full spread who very soon began to scream in intolerably raucous voices, utterly drowning the music so that I instantly became bored and irritated. Boredom was my first reaction to incipient delirium.”

Things rapidly degenerate, as the dead roam the streets, inanimate objects come alive, and phantoms invade everyone’s dreams.

Desiderio faithfully assists the Minister, who is the only one willing to continue defending the city, but admits to himself that he is agnostic in the battle. He has strange dreams that are dominated by his ideal woman, Albertina, and she comes to be his only passion. The Minister sends him outside of the city on a mission related to Dr. Hoffman, but from then on, the narrator runs into one and another set of weird characters. He starts out in the creepy house of a missing mayor, finds refuge with boat-dwelling natives, joins a circus, falls in with a Marquis de Sade-like nobleman, and wanders a weird fantasy land. There are links to Hoffman and Albertina, but sometimes it feels like a stretch. Even when Albertina appears, there is still wandering and randomness. Carter’s writing makes everything very vivid and I was into the story enough, but this one was probably my least favorite of her works so far. ( )
2 vote DieFledermaus | Apr 24, 2015 |
Now this is an interesting novel, albeit not a great one. The book starts off in a city where the titular machine is picking away at the seams of reality, and through those openings pour illusions given form. The opening raised my expectations, as the story of a bureaucrat trying to work in a city being colonized by figments of imagination and where reality is in flux is a fascinating concept. Instead we are only in the city for a brief time before the bureaucrat is sent off on a mission, which sends him to circuses and pleasure houses, and riding on sleighs and riverboats. It's a bizarre tale, not without its beauty, but ultimately it felt like the best opportunity was missed and what was left is more style than substance. ( )
1 vote BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
My shortest review ever: pervy Kafka

Alright, I lied. Not about the pervy Kafka part, but about the length of the review. I owe more explanation. Carter's book messes with reality. It messes with gender roles, gender in general, kind of bestiality...or at least gets halfway there technically I suppose. Covers homosexuality and gang rape (in a few different instances) and was just really a weird book. Now with all the instances of sex and deviant sex (not judging all instances of sex noted above, but yeah...definitely some), it wasn't overly graphic, more just uncomfortable in an artsy way. Lolita level uncomfortable maybe?

Anyway, the book was well-written and pulled it off until the end. The end...oh, the end. It was as if she had to head out for a trip and she knew she'd be gone a while but she was on deadline. So she jotted down a quick wrap. The conclusion didn't do the rest of the work justice, hence, my rating reflects that. ( )
1 vote Sean191 | Jun 24, 2013 |
Angela Carter is often cited as a very well-thought of and influential author. I can see the technical mastery of her writing but I just can't enjoy it very much myself. It is just too dense and too unenjoyable for me. A lot of very bad things happen and no good things, and most of the people are pretty terrible. The general idea of a war against reality is very intriguing, and I wish I could have enjoyed it more than I did. ( )
1 vote g33kgrrl | Aug 8, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Angela Carterprimary authorall editionscalculated
Marsh, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perria, LidiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Les lois de nos désirs sont les dés sans loisir.

Robert Desnos
(Remember that we sometimes demand definitions for the sake not of the content, but of their form. Our requirement is an architectural one: the definition is a kind of ornamental coping that supports nothing.)

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations
Imagine the perplexity of a man outside time and space, who has lost his watch, his measuring rod and his tuning fork.

Alfred Jarry, Exploits and Opinions of Doctor Faustrall Pataphysician
First words
I remember everything.


I remember everything perfectly.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

The story of a war fought against the diabolic Doctor Hoffman, who wanted to demolish the structures of reason and liberate man from the chains of the reality principle for ever.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
2 avail.
93 wanted
2 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.79)
1 2
2 6
2.5 2
3 30
3.5 16
4 38
4.5 4
5 30

Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141046686, 0141192399

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 114,418,207 books! | Top bar: Always visible