A Vigorous New Translation of Kleist’s Classic Novella

Ratik Asokan at Bookforum:

Heinrich von Kleist died by his own hand at the age of thirty-four. For a man whose life was plagued by failure, his suicide was a remarkable success. On November 20, 1811, two months after turning his eighth play over to the Prussian censors, Kleist and his friend Henriette Vogel retired to an inn outside Berlin, where for one night and one day they sang and prayed, composed final letters, and downed bottles of rum and wine (as well as, the London Times later reported, sixteen cups of coffee) before making their way to the banks of the Kleiner Wannsee. In these idyllic surroundings, as per their agreement, Kleist shot her in the chest, reloaded, and then fired at his own head. “I am blissfully happy,” he had written to his cousin that morning. “Now I can thank [God] for my life, the most tortured ever lived by any human being, since He makes it up to me with this most splendid and pleasurable of deaths.”

more here.