Heinrich von Kleist

Heinrich von Kleist (1777–1811) was a German poet, novelist, and short-story writer. After serving in the Prussian Army during the Rhine campaign of 1796, he enrolled in Viadrina University, where he studied law and philosophy. Eventually, after much travel, he settled in Berlin. He passed away in 1811.

Michael Kohlhaas

Fiction by Heinrich von Kleist

Translated from the German by Michael Hofmann

Michael Kohlhaas has been wronged. First his finest horses were unfairly confiscated and mistreated. And things keep going worse—his servants have been beaten, his wife killed, and the lawsuits he pursues are stymied—but Kohlhaas, determined to find justice at all costs, tirelessly persists. Standing up against the bureaucratic machine of the empire, Kohlhaas becomes an indomitable figure that you can’t help rooting for from start to finish. Knotty, darkly comical, magnificent in its weirdness, and one of the greatest and most influential tales in German literature, this short novel, first published in German in 1810, is now available in award-winning Michael Hofmann’s sparkling new English translation.…
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Prince Friedrich Of Homburg

Prince Friedrich of Homburg is the indisputable dramatic masterpiece of Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811), a leading figure, along with Goethe and Schiller, among early German Romantics. Available until now only in verse translation, it has been newly rendered for the American stage by Diana Stone Peters and Frederick G. Peters. A work of profound psychological insight, Prince Friedrich of Homburg probes with passionate intensity questions fundamental to “civilized” behavior. Prince Friedrich, the hero of the historic battle of Fehrbellin (1675) against the invading Swedes, receives not laurels for his victory but the sentence of death for disobeying orders in the field.…
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Heinrich Von Kleist: The Major Works

Heinrich von Kleist, along with his older contemporaries Goethe and Schiller, was one of the great innovative forces in the early Romantic movement. By the time of his death in 1811 at the age of thirty-four — he made a suicide pact with a woman he barely knew — his modest output of seven complete plays and eight Novellen, or chronicle narratives, together with such critical essays as “About the Marionette Theater,” had profoundly transformed German drama and, indeed, the very scope of European literature.…
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Kleist’s narrative language is something completely unique. It is not enough to read it as historical—even in his day nobody wrote as he did. An impetus squeezed out with iron, absolutely un-lyrical detachment brings forth tangled, knotted, overloaded sentences painfully soldered together and driven by a breathless tempo.

—Thomas Mann

What revolted the mature Goethe in the young Kleist, who submitted his works to the elder statesman ‘on the knees of his heart’—the morbid, the hysterical, the sense of the unhealthy, the enormous indulgence in suffering out of which Kleist’s plays and tales were mined—is just what we value today. Today Kleist gives pleasure, most of Goethe is a classroom bore.

—Susan Sontag

His sentences are remarkable—great hatchet-blows of thought, an implacable narrative speed, a pulverizing sense of inevitability. No wonder Kafka liked him so much …

—Paul Auster

I did not write to you last night, it got too late because of Michael Kohlhaas (have you read it? If not, don’t! I shall read it to you!); apart from a short section which I had read the day before, I finished it in one sitting. Probably for the tenth time. This is a story I read with true piety; it carries me along waves of wonder.

—Franz Kafka
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