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Review of Selected Prose of Heinrich von Kleist, from Publishers Weekly


Compiled and translated by Peter Wortsman, this collection of short stories, novellas and literary fragments by German writer Heinrich von Kleist (1777–1811) is impressive not only for its content but for its relevance centuries later. In “The Earthquake in Chile,” Jeronimo Rugera is jailed for impregnating his student, Donna Josephe, and is contemplating suicide on the day of her arranged beheading when an earthquake thunders through the city and frees him. Rugera, wandering through the rubble-torn streets, is astonished to find that both his love and their baby have miraculously been spared, but the bloodthirsty nature of the surviving townspeople has not abated. Based on a true event, “The Marquise of O” centers on an Italian widow courted by Count F., who asks for her hand in marriage. Meanwhile, she notices her body transforming and when the surprise pregnancy is confirmed, her family banishes her in disgrace, and she seizes upon the plan of advertising in the newspaper for the father to step forward and prove her innocence. A dark, charming collection of twisted fairy tales for grownups.

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