Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Heinrich von Kleist

Guardian books blog takes a break from all the booker and prize-mongering and posts an entry on Heinrich von Kleist. My heart sank when I read the stupid subtitle ("He committed suicide at 34, but Heinrich von Kleist was no nihilist.") but the rest of the entry is much better. He also talks about his less famous stories or may it is because his most famous ones - The Marquise of O. and Michael Kohlhaas are both mini-novellas. In any case, he should definitely be much more widely read than he actually is because his is one of the great restless spirits who will be quite at home in our modern world. As the scholars who introduce the penguin classics edition of his collected stories say:

"The world of these stories is an unpredictable one, a world of dislocated causality on which inexplicable forces intrude and in which sanity is poised on the brink of destruction. They are the work of a rationalist tormented by his loss of faith in Reason and desperately searching for certainty, for an order which is not 'gebrechlich'. In Kleist's life this search could only fail; the only imposable order was that of his art, an order of words, the strange pattern of his three or four dramatic masterpieces, the electrifying articulated structures of his narrative prose."

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