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Barthelme, Donald

Entry updated 20 July 2020. Tagged: Author.

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(1931-1989) US author known primarily as a surrealist and black humorist. His novels are all Fabulations: Snow White (1967), an absurdist dissection of the fairy tale; The Dead Father (1975), in which the giant figure of a moribund Father is escorted with trauma and ritual to its final resting place; and The King (1990), which transports King Arthur and his knights to World War Two. Barthelme's early collections especially – like Come Back, Dr Caligari (coll 1964), Unspeakable Practices, Unnatural Acts (coll 1968) and City Life (coll 1970) – present in the form of discontinuous spoofs and Iconoclasms a number of ideas and themes taken from Mythology, fantasy and sf. Many of these stories have been reprinted in sf anthologies. The central canon of his works – his short fiction as a whole – is conveniently assembled as Sixty Stories (coll 1981), Forty Stories (coll 1987) and Flying to America: 45 More Stories (coll 2007); The Teachings of Don B: Satires, Parodies, Fables, Illustrated Stories, and Plays (coll 1992) completes, as per its subtitle, the presentation of his essential shorter work. [PR/JC]

see also: Fantasy Entries; Magic Realism.

Donald Barthelme Jr

born Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 7 April 1931

died Houston, Texas: 23 July 1989


  • Snow White (New York: Atheneum, 1967) [hb/Lawrence Ratzkin]
  • The Dead Father (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1975) [hb/Ruth Ansel]
  • The King (New York: Harper and Row, 1990) [illus/hb/Barry Moser]

collections and stories


about the author


previous versions of this entry

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