Claire Massey, short story writer, recommends…

(CLASSIC: from The Best Tales of Hoffmann, Dover Editions)

Nobody does automata like Hoffman. His more well-known tale ‘The Sandman’ helped Freud towards his definition of the uncanny and this earlier story also explores the unsettling effect of mechanical figures, alongside a chilling ghost story. ‘Automata’ is also about storytelling and I love the way one character, when challenged for breaking off his puzzling tale abruptly, rails against fiction in which the stage is swept clean and the reader left sated. Like him, I enjoy being left to wonder and worry at the mystery of a story long after I’ve read it.

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(MODERN: from Things That Never Happen, Gollancz).

I love this story. Again and again in his fiction, Harrison captures the extraordinary in the everyday, and the way we crash through each other’s lives, with almost unbearable precision. In ‘Egnaro’, a Manchester bookseller confesses his obsession with a secret country to his accountant. Like the mysterious country described, the story embeds itself in your imagination and can’t be escaped.

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