Erma Odrach's Reviews > The Marquise of O

The Marquise of O by Heinrich von Kleist
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Jan 21, 12


Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811) is a German writer of the early 19th century. He's not all that well known worldwide and even in Germany he remained a relative unkown for almost a century. His writing was so ahead of its time and he's been called the forerunner of modern drama. The Marquise of O is a collection of short stories - the writing is quite abrupt, dry, and straighforward. It's also impersonal and almost deliberately anti-literary. I love that it has such a contemporary feel to it.

In "The Foundling" Elvira renounces life by marrying an old man, Piachi. There are many secrets and it ends in catastrophe.

In the title story "Marquise of O." a widowed noblewoman becomes mysteriously pregnant, and she advertises in the newspapers for the unknown father. Though the premise is confusing even disturbing, it starts rather nonchalantly: "...a lady of unblemished reputation and the mother of several well-bred children, published the following notice in the newspapers: that, without her knowing how, she was in the family way; that she would like the father of the child she was going to bear to report himself ..."

These stories are very good. Kleist is also known to have paved the way for Kafka, even though the two lived a century apart.
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message 1: by Bibliomantic (last edited Jan 13, 2012 10:46AM) (new)

Bibliomantic "Kleist is also known to have paved the way for Kafka, even though the two lived a century apart."

And by extension, Borges and Garcia Marquez, and many more. I've even come across comments from Nietzsche on the man, crediting him with influence on his ideas on the nature of truth, for example, and for insightful comments on the work of Kant.

As to this book, these are indeed fantastic stories that are superbly written, and this is one of my favorite books of all time. The sense of beauty and horror, often mixed together, is something I found unforgettable. The story-telling is superb, and this is one of those books that I pick up once in a while to sample from and read a story or two.


Friederike Knabe Erma, I am so glad you read Kleist. He was indeed a pioneer in writing. We read the Marquise of O in school and he stayed with me. The 200th aniversary of his death was marked by major international Kleist conferences... he would probably have been amused by all the attention.


message 3: by Erma (last edited Jan 14, 2012 07:17AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erma Odrach Biblio - Have to admit, this is the first time I've read Kleist. I agree they are fantastic pieces. I love how he tells his stories in such plain straightforward language. It's seems so effortless.

I like how he fits his ideas into a few words but extends his sentences by sometimes more than twenty lines! Though I only know a bit of German, I can see how his style would fit very well with the German language, Friederike.


message 4: by Tom (last edited Jan 15, 2012 05:55AM) (new)

Tom "Michael Kohlhaas" is a fine story, too, typically Kleistian strange combination of straight realistic narration and weird fantasy. Allegedly an inspiration for Doctorow novel Ragtime. Kleist also wrote a really wild play, Penthesilea: A Tragic Drama, about Amazon queen madly in love with Achilles. The man had a "fertile" imagination, to say the least.


Erma Odrach I'll have to check out that play - thanks!


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