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The Cloak of Dreams:
Chinese Fairy Tales
Béla Balázs
Translated and introduced by Jack Zipes
Illustrated by Mariette Lydis

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2011: Top 25 Books

Paperback | 2013 | $17.95 | £14.95 | ISBN: 9780691162331
192 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 | 15 line illus.
Hardcover | 2010 | $24.95 | £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691147116
208 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 | 15 line illus.
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400836031 |
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A man is changed into a flea and must bring his future parents together in order to become human again. A woman convinces a river god to cure her sick son, but the remedy has mixed consequences. A young man must choose whether to be close to his wife's soul or body. And two deaf mutes transcend their physical existence in the garden of dreams. Strange and fantastical, these fairy tales of Béla Balázs (1884-1949), Hungarian writer, film critic, and famous librettist of Bluebeard's Castle, reflect his profound interest in friendship, alienation, and Taoist philosophy. Translated and introduced by Jack Zipes, one of the world's leading authorities on fairy tales, The Cloak of Dreams brings together sixteen of Balázs's unique and haunting stories.

Written in 1921, these fairy tales were originally published with twenty images drawn in the Chinese style by painter Mariette Lydis, and this new edition includes a selection of Lydis's brilliant illustrations. Together, the tales and pictures accentuate the motifs and themes that run throughout Balázs's work: wandering protagonists, mysterious woods and mountains, solitude, and magical transformation. His fairy tales express our deepest desires and the hope that, even in the midst of tragedy, we can transcend our difficulties and forge our own destinies.

Unusual, wondrous fairy tales that examine the world's cruelties and twists of fate, The Cloak of Dreams will entertain, startle, and intrigue.


"Except among a few film and music scholars, Balázs is barely remembered, and only four books from the mountain of his works--novels, stories, poetry, plays, puppet plays, screenplays, libretti, political articles, and film criticism--have ever been translated into English. But he was an archetypal modernist, a type that is now nearly extinct: the man who seemed to know everyone, do everything, and write everything. . . . Unlike others, [Balázs] did not believe that the movies would mean the end of stories and novels, and it is not surprising that he wrote The Cloak of Dreams at the same time that he wrote his first screenplay. In the present moment, when fiction has yet again been declared dead, these deliberately anachronistic, pseudo-Oriental, and completely delightful tales are further examples of the perennial human need for imaginative narrative told in words."--Eliot Weinberger, New York Review of Books

"Personally, I found Zipes' introduction--roughly a third of this slim volume--the most interesting part of the book. Zipes provides a fascinating story of a complicated man, buffeted by his place in history, benefitting and suffering from the tumultuous times in which he lived."--Heidi Anne Heiner, SurLaLune Fairy Tales Blog

"[A] highly informative introduction to the present work by its translator, the university professor and fairy-tale specialist Jack Zipes, who has clearly moved beyond his speciality and gained great insight into Hungary's pre-1919 circles of radical artists and social critics, of which both Balázs and Lukács were members. He explains how the writing of this collection of Chinese-style tales was not something out of the ordinary on the part of Balázs, but rather dovetailed quite neatly with his search for meaning in life (and death), his belief in the power and imagery of folk tales and his attraction, albeit not conversion, to Taoism."--Bob Dent, Budapest Times

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