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The Marquise of O— and Other Stories

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,446 Ratings  ·  81 Reviews
From 'The Marquis of O--', in which a woman is made pregnant without her knowledge, to the vivid and inexplicable suffering portrayed in 'The Earthquake in Chile', his stories are those of a man swimming against the tide of the German Enlightenment, unable to believe in the idealistic humanism of his day, and who sees human nature as irrational, ambiguous and baffling. It ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published June 29th 1978 by Penguin Classics (first published 1808)
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The Metamorphosis by Franz KafkaThe Man Without Qualities by Robert MusilSteppenwolf by Hermann HesseThe Trial by Franz KafkaThe Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke
Best German/Austrian Literature
58th out of 609 books — 762 voters
Faust by Johann Wolfgang von GoethePhenomenology of Spirit by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich HegelLyrical Ballads by William WordsworthTales from Shakespeare by Charles LambThe Age of Reason by Thomas Paine
Best Books of the Decade: 1800s.
8th out of 43 books — 52 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mar 17, 2012 knig rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites, 2012
Von Kleist is groszartig. Is it a coincidence that these shocking stories stem from the pen of what was quite likely a manic depressive who eventually committed suicide? There have been numerous studies confirming positive correlation between displays of genius and people with an overactive mental stasis.

What is shocking these days? Are there any wonders left us to marvel at? The only film that shocked me in the last ten years was ‘the Others’: for inverting the Ghost story on its head by a sim
Nov 20, 2013 Lee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: put-down-for-now
The Earthquake in Chile sets a standard the other stories maybe don't totally live up to? It also sets the precedent for a sort of narrative insurrection in which the author seems to have it in for his characters in an angry God/terroristic way. The random violence really jumps off these early-1800s pages. The title story started tremendously with sacking of a castle and bashing in of brains but devolved to hysterics. "Michael Kohlhass" kicks total Kafka precursor ass for its first third or so b ...more
Dec 15, 2010 Terence rated it really liked it
Recommended to Terence by: Francine Prose
I originally gave The Marquise of O - three stars (“I liked it”) but upon reflection I feel I have to round it up to four. There are no clunkers in the collection of Heinrich von Kleist’s short prose work (he was also a poet, playwright, and wrote operas) and the translations are excellent, retaining the robust, Teutonic sentences of the original German without sacrificing readability.

Von Kleist is another one of those fortuitous discoveries that I wish I had made before entering my twilight yea
I didn't know much about Kleist when I started reading this. In fact, I felt like reading him after reading the excellent Robert Walser short story "Kleist in Thun", so I had no idea what to expect.

Contained in this volume are almost all of his short stories (missing are "The Foundling" and "The Duel"). Kleist was in his early thirties when he committed suicide, and it is remarkable that what little writing he left behind has inspired Kafka, Mann, Walser, etc. What I didn't expect was that his s
Oct 06, 2014 Mel rated it really liked it
Where this not German literature I would say this book very much falls into the Gothic category. The stories were full of evil catholics, unwed mothers and unspeakable activities by the church. The style (in translation) seems half way between a William Morris style re-creation of medivael stories and the gothic novels of the 18th and 19th centuries. Some of the short stories are a little odd in places, the timing seemed strange, stories seemed to end abruptly or go on too long in places. Michae ...more
Dec 16, 2012 Yadel rated it it was amazing
Reading Kleist is an exhilarating experience that can be very unpleasant. I don’t think any stories have ever moved me the way Kleist’s do, but I’m having a hard time describing this effect in words. I’d like to say that his sentences manage to capture the beauty and anxiety of a single moment, but that makes absolutely no sense. Maybe I can get to it by thinking about something else.
Do expectations ruin our experience of the future, or do they help us tolerate it? The answer is both. Moreover,
Quinn Slobodian
Apr 13, 2009 Quinn Slobodian rated it really liked it
Like workers who bring the factory to a standstill by following every rule, Kleist's heroes stick so stubbornly to some kind of code, whether positive--of law, love, filial piety--or negative--of dogma, self-love, filial disgust--that they bring structures down around them. The outcomes of his stories are always perverse. Through the characters' belief in the law, they become outlaws, through the ferocity of their love, they sacrifice those they love, through the depth of their faith, they submi ...more
M. Sarki
Jul 21, 2013 M. Sarki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing collection of stories. However, I am suspect of this particular translation. There were far too many instances of modern turns-of-phrases especially in the best story of all, Michael Kohlhaas. I have not read anywhere as yet if my suspicion holds water or not, but I would be interested if anyone knows something about this. The book itself, its production value, is exquisite. A very nice edition.
Francine Prose raved about The Marquise of O in Reading Like a Writer and I was on the hunt for a copy for months, until I finally found a weathered paperback in a Southern Pines, NC, book store. These stories are unlike any I have ever read. They are suspenseful and simultaneously understated. He'll leave your mind reeling.
M. Sarki
Jul 19, 2013 M. Sarki rated it it was amazing
I loved this story as well as many others. A master storyteller of immense integrity.
Irreligious, perverse, and shocking even to this day. Von Kleist's discontent with the social structures of his time—most especially the church, the law, and the vagaries of community life—makes his tales perhaps more politically rich than his contemporary Hoffmann, although both are equally skillful in plumbing the depths of the human psyche when it comes to matters of love, survival, family, and even gender.

Von Kleist's style is very proto-modernist: his paragraphs run on for pages with no app
Jan 04, 2010 Dan rated it liked it
Recommended to Dan by: Stanton de v. H.
Shelves: short-stories
Representing events that can be explained equally well as natural or as supernatural, some of Kleist’s stories are instances of fantastic literature. Moreover, while Kleist’s employment of the uncanny and the unexpected may reflect a Romantic interest in gothic conventions, it can be argued that in these stories he was not so much attempting to exploit the sensationalism of such devices as bizarre coincidences and pathological obsession (as writers like Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft would l ...more
Feb 06, 2015 Alex rated it liked it
Hesper calls this something along the lines of a German anti-Enlightenment smackdown, and I'm not sure what that means but it's definitely awesome.

I've only read the title story so far. I'll put this in spoilers but it's always pretty clear what's happened: (view spoiler)
Czarny Pies
Oct 19, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it really liked it
Shelves: german-lit
Everyone should read this dazzling set of stories. I agree wholeheartedly with Germaine de Stael who argued that from 1780 to 1820, Germany's literature was the foremost in the world. Unfortunately the greatest works were either poems or versified drama. Kleist's stories then offer one of the best introductions to someone wishing to learn more about German Romanticism as translations of prose are always more successful than translations of verse.

Людмил Люцканов
Този и още няколко разказа са поместени в една тъничка книжка, озаглавена "Земетресението в Чили" и издадена от "Панорама" през 70-те. Оттогава разказвачът Клайст не е преиздаван, по тази причина тоя позакъснял романтик не е и добре познат у нас, а определено би допаднал на доста читатели с изтънчен вкус. Малко е уморителен, малко умозрителен, с едни меланхолични, нерешителни герои, които обаче водят твърде смислени разговори и все се опитват да си изяснат разни чувства, без да са сигурни дали и ...more
Jul 13, 2008 Tom rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Actually, I've read only the novella "Michael Kohlhaas," about a landowner who pursues justice to get restitution from nobleman who mistreated some of his horses. In the process, he ends up fomenting a violent rebellion that wreaks havoc across the land, pulling in Martin Luther to mediate. It becomes unpredictably and weirdly fantastical towards the end, but still a great work for exploring questions of ends justifying means in the name of justice. The model for Doctorow's Ragtime.
Feb 02, 2015 Jill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Guys. Guys. I have a confession.
I think I suck at pre-20th century literature.

Once upon a time, not that very long ago, in an ivory tower, I got it. You know? GOT. IT. Could whip you out an essay about an obscure Elizabethan play, no problem. Could participate in class discussions about religion and, you know, religion, because apparently that's all anyone ever wrote about before 1900.

Context is everything. While reading these "short" stories, I tried to put myself in the time period (brutal inf
I've never been too big into romanticism, but (my boy forever) Gilles Deleuze was a big Kleist fan. And there's definitely a reward here. Some of it is really boring-- and I don't give a fuck about threatened female virtue-- but the seeping horror and absurdity of some of the stories is remarkably prescient, with tocuhes of Kafka, Camus, Brautigan, and others appearing to the modern reader. "The Earthquake in Chile" is especially powerful.
Dylan Alford
Aug 22, 2009 Dylan Alford rated it really liked it
The plots in the stories are really complicated, and involve coincidences...kind of like Cohen brothers movies, and the characters are usually doomed. Kleist spends a lot of time giving concrete examples explaining what makes a character act a certain way...lots of back history. There's a subtle, morbid humor...the narrative is a little awkward because of translation issues, but the prose is very easy to understand.
Mar 21, 2008 Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
An indispensible book for people who like good writing. These stories are rollercoaster rides from the moment you start reading to the breathless ending. It stunned me that I could be so captured by writing from nearly 200 years ago! When I think of classics, I think of Dickens and other such dusty tomes that require significant effort to wade through! This Author recalibrated my sense of good writing.
Luciana Darce
Nov 27, 2015 Luciana Darce rated it really liked it
Descobri a existência do dramaturgo alemão Heinrich Von Kleist ao ler A Manobra do Rei dos Elfos, que me levou a crises de riso quase incapacitantes. Emprestei o livro à Régis, com quem compartilho um carinho especial por humor nonsense e autores românticos alemães e ao devolver o meu volume, ela mandou junto A marquesa d’O... e outras histórias, reunindo alguns contos do Kleist – incluindo a mais famosa de suas novelas, Michael Kohlhaas.

Não demorei muito a começar a leitura... mas demorei a con
Jul 30, 2008 Jackie rated it really liked it
read it for Michael Kohlhaas alone: the ultimate terrorist? the ultimate badass? the ultimate proof of the futility of bureaucracy. A story of natural law, human law, alienation and reconciliation.

the rest of the stories are okay, but Kolhaas remains my hero forever

Jan 04, 2016 Cindy rated it liked it
This was a good collection of stories and a novella. I really liked his ghost stories. The ghost nun that saved the Abbey from rioters was the best. That story was titled The Power of Music. Heinrich Von Kleist was an excellent writer, it is a shame he committed suicide. Halfway through the book, I knew that I was going to read a powerful story that brought up some questions. These are not light stories, I read the whole collection, most of them are dark tales of injustice and humanity. I stayed ...more
Jan 04, 2010 John rated it really liked it
My favorite story in here was "The Foundling," a really eerie, uncanny tale. I wish some of the stories, like "Michael Kohlhaas" and "The Duel" weren't so bogged down with details and characters though.
Jun 24, 2013 Joseph added it
Shelves: 2004-2008, 2013
I had read two of these stories for college and only just decided to finish the several others I had missed, re-reading the other ones as well. Like Enlightenment writers he is attracted to themes of insanity (The Marquis of O--, and The Power of Music) and also about the fallacy of a too literal subscription to the presence of the Divine in the affairs of men (The Earthquake in Chile, The Duel). Sometimes, he simply confronts the horrors of human kind (Michael Kohlhass, The Betrothal in Santo D ...more
Mason Fake Name Here
Jan 08, 2008 Mason Fake Name Here added it
Recommends it for: people who enjoy pre-20th century German and Prussian fiction.
Recommended to Mason by: Alexander Gelley
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 10, 2015 Dianne rated it it was ok
Shelves: review-written
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 09, 2015 Jeff rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jeff by: Thomas Foster's How to Read Novels Like a Professor
#1: SPOILER WARNING: DO NOT READ THE INTRODUCTION FIRST, unless you want to know virtually the entirety of every story in the book before you read it yourself.

#2: If you're knowledgeable about late 18th and early 19th century European culture and politics, you'll understand the writer's vantage point much better than i do.

I read this book because Thomas Foster spoke so highly of the title story, "The Marquise of O--." His praise began effusively with discussion and dissection of the first sent
Jul 26, 2007 Fiona rated it really liked it
There is a dichotomy of the good/evil rapist and an ultimate happy ending CAN be achieved if one is using senses.

What a great quandary- almost like a sitcom in its farcical simplicity- yet its extremely daring and controversial topic could never be televised for today‚s prudish audiences. For its bold controversial risks, I loved the opening scene with the newspaper advertisement requesting the anonymous father of her child to respond and marry her. This reader is hooked in to watch the unfoldi
Hadley Ellis
Mar 12, 2016 Hadley Ellis rated it it was amazing
An excellent collection of stories. Michael Koolhaus is a brilliantly distressing story that clearly influenced Kafka. The Marquise of O is highly nuanced. Von Kleist deserves better recognition.
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Musil, Kleist, Wortsman 2 2 Feb 20, 2013 12:46PM  
  • Tales of Hoffmann
  • Doting
  • The Wonders Of The Invisible World
  • Sleepwalker in a Fog
  • Selected Stories
  • Stories in an Almost Classical Mode
  • Collected Stories and Later Writings
  • The Stories (So Far)
  • Searches and Seizures
  • The Lord Chandos Letter: And Other Writings
  • Escapes
  • Henry von Ofterdingen
  • The Collected Stories of Katherine Mansfield
  • The Thirtieth Year: Stories
  • The Robbers and Wallenstein
  • Simplicissimus
  • Believers: A novella and stories
  • Complete Plays and Prose
The dramatist, writer, lyricist, and publicist Heinrich von Kleist was born in Frankfurt an der Oder in 1777. Upon his father's early death in 1788 when he was ten, he was sent to the house of the preacher S. Cartel and attended the French Gymnasium. In 1792, Kleist entered the guard regiment in Potsdam and took part in the Rhein campaign against France in 1796. Kleist voluntarily resigned from ar ...more
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“We see that in the organic world, to the same degree that reflection gets darker and weaker, grace grows ever more radiant and dominant. But just as two lines intersect on one side of a point, and after passing through infinity, suddenly come together again on the other side; or the image in a concave mirror suddenly reappears before us after drawing away into the infinite distance, so too, does grace return once perception, as it were, has traversed the infinite--such that it simultaneously appears the purest in human bodily structures that are either devoid of consciousness or which possess an infinite consciousness, such as in the jointed manikin or the god.” 8 likes
“In M---, an important town in northern Italy, the widowed Marquise of O---, a lady of unblemished reputation and the mother of several well-brought-up children, inserted the following announcement in the newspapers: that she had, without knowledge of the cause, come to find herself in a certain situation; that she would like the father of the child she was expecting to disclose his identity to her; that she was resolved, out of consideration to her family, to marry him.” 3 likes
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