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The Marquise of O— and Other Stories

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  1,109 ratings  ·  62 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 September 28th 1978 by Penguin Classics (first published 1811)
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Best German/Austrian Literature
60th out of 566 books — 578 voters
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Best Short Stories
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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
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 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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
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
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 3 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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

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.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 09, 2015 Jeff rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
On 2nd read, I found a grand array of intriguing turns in the long, Germanic sentences and paragraphs here, though I must admit that I found the title story the least interesting of the bunch. Among the aforementioned turns I would also include the turns of justice, for though Kleist at times seems to be lacking in any, and in "The Earthquake in Chile" and even "The Betrothal in Santo Domingo," a story like "The Duel" shows that Kleist's justice was simply indirect, possibly more for the grander ...more
This book is slow going for me...I can't seem to read it before bed without falling asleep, and have even put it into my bathroom so that I'll be forced to read it while I'm on the can.

For some reason, it doesn't seem to take.

Perhaps I should familiarize myself with him as well as the time frame he's operating in, and give it another go.

Michael Kohlhaas had me hooked though. Need to read it again.

I feel like this book is a workout for my brain, which can be good if you're in the mood for it, a
A great set of pieces to read for sentence construction and stories constructed around themes of injustice.

Of sorts - it's pretty hard to look favorably on plots where women are essentially raped, shunned, and in one case later marry the perpetrator, but von Kleist had some psychological issues so part of that must be chalked up to that and the period of time at which he was writing.

Interesting to note that all his German-set stories take place in the Middle Ages/Renaissance and his contemporane
Aug 05, 2014 Lori marked it as to-read
Because Francine Prose said so.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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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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“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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