Thursday, 9 September 2010

The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman

Author: Angela Carter
Publisher: Penguin Decades
RRP: £8.99

      This is a surrealist novel written in the 1970s about Desiderio, a man working for the Minister of a South American country who is given a secret mission to kill Doctor Hoffman a crazed scientist who has been reaping havoc on the capital city.  Doctor Hoffman makes dreams realities (but not in a good way) using metaphysics and his desire machines, the capital city has been transformed into a place where time doesn’t exist and the land is covered in obscure flora and fauna.  There is a snag however, Desiderio is in love with Albertina, the daughter of Doctor Hoffman and ultimately has to decide whether to give in his desires or fulfil his mission.

      Having never read any surrealist literature before I didn’t really know what to expect so I read the blurb and it seemed quite an exciting plot, so I thought I’d give it a go.  I was instantly struck by the amount of imagery in the book, the dreamlike world was full of strange and fantastical creatures all described with great care and attention.  I found this great at first but soon got tired of the interruptions to the plot and just wanted a bit more action.  When I began reading I found the whole concept intriguing but I soon became tired of the monotonous plot line, the character merely had one sexual encounter and moved to another community of outlawed people, learnt their language and had another sexual encounter and so on.  Although when I reached the end of the book I understood why the sex scenes were necessary I personally found them repulsive (some waaaay more than others).  Equally I felt there was a strong feminist undercurrent in these sections of the books with women being used as objects of desire often to their detriment; something I’m not sure has particular resonance today.  I also was really bored of plants oozing their strong perfume everywhere which is all they seemed to do.

      I do think the book is technically excellent, the use of language is admirable and the idea is original and had great potential, I just don’t fell this was maximised.  This is a book for those who are looking to do some profound thinking, I on the other hand don’t want to have to analyse a book to get even somewhere near its meaning.  Disappointing.

Rating: 4/10