Form and Content
Karen Blixen had been working on the stories that make up Seven Gothic Tales for ten years before she tried to get them published in English under the masculine name Isak Dinesen. After being turned down by three publishers, she sent the manuscript to American writer Dorothy Canfield Fisher, who liked it so much that she urged a publisher friend of hers to publish it, even though no one really believed that it would make any money. When the book appeared in January of 1933, however, it was not only enthusiastically received by critics but also was chosen as a main selection of the Book-of-the-Month-Club and eagerly snapped up by readers.
The title of the collection is in some ways a misnomer, for there are many more tales here than seven; Dinesen, like the medieval and romantic storytellers from whom she draws her inspiration, often makes use of the insert tale; thus, her stories contain tales within tales within tales. Dinesen’s plots are often so complex that they are difficult to describe briefly, but since plot is so important in the gothic romance in general and in Dinesen’s stories in particular, a short summary of some of the stories is necessary to give some idea of their thematic implications.
The first story in the American edition of Seven Gothic Tales, “The Deluge at Norderney,” has been called one of Dinesen’s most characteristic tales because it contains so many of her typical themes and motifs. The story takes place in 1835 when a great storm strikes a summer resort on the coast of Denmark. A famous cardinal, Hamilcar von Sehestedt, is trapped in a farmhouse with three others awaiting...
(The entire section is 676 words.)