Cover image for Selected writings
Title:
Selected writings
Author:
Kleist, Heinrich von, 1777-1811.
Uniform Title:
Works. Selections. English. 1997
Publication Information:
London : J.M. Dent, [1997]

©1997
Physical Description:
xxvii, 442 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780460876421

9780460879514
Format :
Book

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PT2378 .A14 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Author Notes

The plays and stories of Heinrich von Kleist seem particularly modern, in that they show a world in which the individual can no longer rely on the institutions of society, the discoveries of science, or the revelations of religion. Instead, his characters can trust only in their intuition of some higher, though unknowable, providential purpose. At a time when the writers of German classicism counseled moderation and restraint, Kleist excelled in depicting elemental passions. He differed, however, from the writers of both Storm and Stress and romanticism in the austere character of his language and the almost clinical detachment of his narrative prose.

Kleist was born into a distinguished though impoverished Prussian family. In 1799, he broke with family tradition by refusing to pursue a military career. For a while he wished to study natural science, but, in 1801, a reading of Kant precipitated a crisis by convincing him that knowledge was impossible. The rest of his tempestuous life was marked by generally unsuccessful attempts to establish himself in various vocations, including journalism and politics. He achieved some moderate success with his play Katchen von Heilbronn in 1810, but most of his work remained unappreciated. Prince Friedrich von Homburg, now his most celebrated play, was not to be discovered and published until 1821, a decade after the author's death by suicide.

The suicide of Kleist brought him the attention that had been denied him in life. He was, almost immediately afterward, recognized as a significant writer, and his reputation has grown steadily ever since. David Luke and Nigel Reeves have written, "It is precisely Kleist's vulnerability and disequilibrium, his desperate challenge to established values and beliefs, that carry him further than Goethe and Schiller across the gap between the eighteenth century and our own age." Despite the great attention now given to the work of Kleist in Germany, he remains largely unknown to the American public. In Japan and Korea, however, in part because of cultural affinities, he is extremely popular.

(Bowker Author Biography)