Tales of the Night

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The Danish novelist, Peter Hoeg, has won critical acclaim in the English-speaking world with such startling novels as SMILLA’S SENSE OF SNOW (1993), BORDERLINERS (1994), and THE WOMAN AND THE APE (1996). The collection, TALES OF THE NIGHT, was first published in Denmark in 1990. It must be assumed that it took the critical success of Hoeg’s novels in English translation before it was felt that TALES OF THE NIGHT would find its own English-speaking audience. While the stories do not distinguish themselves to the same dazzling degree as Hoeg’s novels do, each story is intriguing and provocative in its own right. The collection opens with “Journey into a Dark Heart.” The story finds a young Danish mathematician traveling with Joseph Conrad on a train through the Congo. Hoeg uses this imagined encounter as an entry point into the seemingly inevitable confrontations that occur between Western and non-Western cultures.

When reading these stories, the reader may reflect on classic stories written by Joseph Conrad, Isak Dinesen, or even Franz Kafka. There is an ominous cloud that hovers above each of these tales. In “Pity for the Children of Vaden,” the Danish town of Vaden seals itself off from the rest of Danish society in order to protect itself from a deadly plague. A group of traveling performers do make their way into the town and the idea that everything that is harmful can be kept away from the town and its inhabitants is challenged. Never less than thought-provoking, TALES OF THE NIGHT shows Hoeg as a young writer in the process of perfecting his craft.