I found these rambling tales to be deeply boring and written in an off-putting, affected style. The first story, “The Golden Flower Pot,” (vaunted by the editor as Hoffmann’s best work) absolutely reeks of opium, full as it is of confusing dream sequences, hallucinations, inconsistent use of supernatural elements, and such oddities as a salamander exiled from “Fairyland Atlantis” to earth, in the form of an old man with daughters disguised as talking snakes. All that, but somehow, still boring and pointless.
Each successive story disenchanted me anew and it was toilsome work to get through the entire book. The only story I didn’t actively loathe was “Tobias Martin, Master Cooper, and His Men,” which is a sweet little tale whose lack of any real payoff or point is forgivable, given that it was inspired simply by a painting.
[Why I read it: the author’s name caught my eye as I browsed through books in the thrift store because, as a child, I had played a piano transcription of part of an opera called The Tales of Hoffmann, and I recognised his name from the song description.]