by Heinrich von Kleist
-born in Germany, 1777
-translated by Annie Janusch
-more about Kleist (via Goodreads)
Authorial Tidbits: (via Melville House)
- Heinrich von Kleist was born into a Prussian military family, and fought against the French at age 15. (He resigned at 21.)
- He was hospitalized for several mysterious illnesses (physical and mental) while travelling a Europe engulfed in the Napoleonic wars.
- He wrote revolutionary plays and stories, embracing realism and rejecting the ideals of dominant German humanists such as Goethe.
- As part of a suicide pact, Kleist shot dead a terminally-ill friend, then himself, in 1811.
Synopsis: (via Melville House)
One of the few novellas written by the master German playwright, The Duel was considered by Thomas Mann and others to be one of the great works of German literature.
The story of a virtuous woman slandered by a nobleman, it is a precise study of a subject that fascinated von Kleist: That people are sometimes seemingly punished for their very innocence.
What is it about Kleist's writing that makes this novella feel like comfort food? This is something I need to explore! (Luckily, my next read is another work by Kleist.) Reading this tale of murder, honor, nobility and justice somehow made me feel like I was 3 years old again, enraptured by a fairy tale being read to me by my dad. The language is fairly simple, and there are people fainting every time you turn around, but there is something so gripping and so satisfying by the story that I want to read it over and over again. It's full of knights and chivalry (and also greed and trickery) and a fascinating peek at how God's perceived Will (said in a big, God-like voice of course) factored into the justice of the 14th century.
I read this too quickly to jot down notes while reading, but I did flip back through so I could write down a couple of short examples of what a solid part faith played in these character's lives.
-A solemn oath made at such an hour can contain no lies...
-Why should divine wisdom proclaim its truth at only the very moment it is invoked?I'm very much looking forward to the next novella, another by the same author, to compare to this one. I'm starting to wonder if there's going to be a bad one in the collection, so far I've been quite pleased.