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Winter's Tales Paperback – 1970


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Paperback, 1970
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Amazon.com: 15 reviews
62 of 63 people found the following review helpful
Tales for all Seasons Nov. 17 2003
By L. Stearns Newburg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a terrifc book by a unique writer.

That's no surprise, because Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) wrote a number of fine books. Her ledger contains a couple of volumes of reminiscence about her life in Africa, a pseudonymous novel of adventure (_The Angelic Avengers_), and posthumously published books of stories (_Carnival_) and essays (_Daguerrotypes_). Despite the interest and occasional excellence of these books -- especially in the case of _Out of Africa_ -- it's as a writer of long stories that she exhibited her greatest artistry and achievement.

She published 4 collections of short stories in her lifetime: _Seven Gothic Tales_, _Winter's Tales_, _Anecdotes of Destiny_, and _Last Tales_. She also published a slim novel (really a novella), _Ehrengard_. As a devoted reader, I've enjoyed every one of these books. Still, it does her no disservice to point out that some are better than others.

Her first book, _Seven Gothic Tales_ is usually the book of stories that people remember first -- deservedly, because any book that contains "The Deluge at Norderney," "The Monkey," and "The Poet" gets high marks. The other stories in the book aren't exactly chopped liver, either.

However, I will submit that _Winter's Tales_ deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the earlier book. I approached _Winter's Tales_ the first time expecting to be disappointed after the bravura performance of _Seven Gothic Tales_. I was surprised in the most pleasant manner imaginable. Indeed, in some ways, _Winter's Tales_ surpasses the earlier book as a work of art. The level of writing is uniformly high; the style is still ornate and surprising, but better controlled. And there are still the touches of melodrama and the gothic that give much of her work a strange feeling of having emerged from the 19th Century, while at the same time being very modern.

Although I found the whole of _Winter's Tales_ to my taste, some of the stories stand out. Some stories that I particularly liked were "The Sailor Boy's Tale," "Alkmene" and "The Fish"; but what puts this book over the top is that it contains "Sorrow Acre," arguably the best example of Blixen's fiction. In fact, one could argue that "Sorrow Acre" is one of the finest stories written in the 20th century by *anyone*. An historical and philosophical novella that reconstructs a day in 19th century Denmark, it plays out personal tragedy and comedy on an aristocratic estate with a subtle irony worthy of Theodor Storm or (dare I say) Thomas Mann. By itself, it was worth the price of admission. I've read it many times since. The thematic connections between this story and the earlier "The Deluge at Norderney" are patent.

Her two later collections, _Anecdotes of Destiny_ and _Last Tales_ have their moments. In particular, several stories from _Anecdotes..._ have grown on me over the years, such as "Babette's Feast" and "Tempests." Still, to my mind, she hit her high water mark in _Seven Gothic Tales_ and _Winter's Tales_.
47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Winter's Tales is refined prose and wisdom of a lost age. Dec 27 1999
By Christian Engler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Isak Diensen's book of ornate, Baroque prose is on an unreachable echelon separate from any writer writing literature today or even from her era. Her stories transport readers to a period where thinking and intelligence were elegant and refined, smooth and intermixed with tints of religiosity. Stories such as "The Invincible Slave-Owner" and "The Sailor-Boy's Tale" show Diensen's strong knowledge of Danish folklore and Baroque description. Mind you, this is not easy reading! The messages are simple, but yet they are dense, and it is very easy to overlook these simple truths as a result of that flamboyance and extravagant complexity for which she has become internationally recognized. Her themes are like those of any writer: strength, courage during adversity, love, etc... But it is how these themes are conveyed that make these tales remarkable. Isak Diensen a.k.a. Baroness Karen Blixen's childhood was not one of the best, and these tales seem to indicate that. They transport the reader, take him or her away to places that seem unreachable, but her life does not mitigate the beautiful intelligence and language that she is able to convey. Diensen was twice nominated for the Noble Prize in Literature, losing to Ernest Hemmingway and Albert Camus. For more on her life and stories, read Judith Thurman's Life of a Storyteller: The Biography of Isak Diensen.
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Her "other" great book of short stories Sept. 30 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Karen Blixen wrote a number of fine books, but only 4 could be called short story collections. Her first book, _Seven Gothic Tales_ is usually the book of stories that people remember first-- deservedly, because any book that contains "The Deluge at Norderney," "The Monkey," and "The Poet" gets high marks. The other stories in the book aren't exactly chopped liver, either.
However, I will submit that _Winter's Tales_ deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as _Seven Gothic Tales_. Indeed, in some ways, it surpasses the earlier book as a work of art. The level of writing is uniformly high; the style is still ornate and surprising, but better controlled. There is some excellent work here, such as the story "Alkmene." But what puts this book over the top is that it contains "Sorrow Acre," probably the best of Blixen's fiction. In fact, one could argue that "Sorrow Acre" is on of the finest stories written in the 20th century by *anyone*. It's a marvel of subtle irony. By itself, it was worth the price of admission.
Her two later collections, _Anecdotes of Destiny_ and _Last Tales_ have their moments, but to my mind, she hit her high water mark in _Seven Gothic Tales_ and _Winter's Tales_.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
I had to buy another copy, haunting stories March 31 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I read over & over my copy of Winter's Tales & one day on a flight from Omaha to STL. I sat next to a Russian Foreign Exchange student & he had no friends in the US so I gave him my best friend "Winter's Tales". A great colections of tales as told around the fires during the darkness of winter.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful, rich, bizarre, and moving July 28 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I am a long time fan of Isak Dinesen's short stories. They are little jewels of rich, sometimes ornate, always beautiful and strange prose. Winter's Tales holds together from beginning to end especially well, and includes my favorite tale of all, "Alkmene." Isak Dinesen's stories are like fairy tales remembered in a dream (or is it dreams remembered in a fairy tale?). They resonate with deep longing and sadness as well as an appreciation for the jokester in the universe.

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