Heinrich Von Kleist

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Kleist, Heinrich Von

 

Born Oct. 18, 1777, in Frankfurt an der Oder; died Nov. 21, 1811, in Wansee, near Potsdam. German writer.

In the tragedies The Schroffenstein Family (published in 1803), Robert Guiskard (a fragment was preserved), and Penthesilea (1805–07; published in 1808) and in the drama Käthchen of Heilbronn, or Trial by Fire (1807; published in 1810), Kleist sought to combine elements of verisimilitude with the irrational and pathological in the actions of his protagonists. The comedy The Broken Pitcher (published in 1811) contains elements of social satire.

On the eve of the movement of liberation against Napoleon’s France, Kleist turned to national problems in verse, drama (The Warrior’s Battle, 1808; published in 1821), and the pamphlet (The German Catechism, 1809). At the same time, Kleist remained faithful to the Prussia of the Junkers, whose past he glorified in the drama Prince Friedrich of Homburg (1810; published in 1821). Kleist’s Short Stories (1810–11) are tensely dramatic and avoid any romantic idealization of the characters. The most important of the short stories is “Michael Kohlhaas” (1810).

Kleist’s legacy is the focus of pointed ideological debate. Marxist literary scholarship attempts to elucidate the humanistic tendencies characterizing his best works.

WORKS

Werke, vols. 1–2. Weimar, 1961.
In Russian translation:
P’esy. Moscow, 1962.
Dramy, Novelly. Moscow, 1969.

REFERENCES

Mering, F. “Kleist.” In his book Literaturno-kriticheskie stat’i, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1934.
Berkovskii, N. Ia. “Kleist.” In the book Nemetskaia romanticheskaia povest’, vol. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1935.
Heinrich von Kleist. Darmstadt, 1967.

L. E. GENIN