Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, November 3, 2017

“The Earthquake in Chile” - A Short Story by Heinrich Von Kleist (1809, translated by David Luke and Nigel Reeves

“the kiss and the bite are such close cousins that in the heat of love they are too readily confounded” 
― Heinrich von Kleist

Heinrich Von Kleist (1777 to 1811) was a famous poet, perhaps the leading dramatist of German Romanticism, a novelist but is now, I think, most still read outside of academia, for his short stories.  This will be the third year in which I post on one of his stories during German Literature Month.  (I recommend a collection of his short stories, The Marquise of O and other Stories
edited and translated by David Luke and Nigel Reeves.  It includes eight stories, 
including “The Earthquake in Chile” as well as a very informative introduction. Kleist lived a life worthy of a Romantic poet, ending in a suicide pact with a Lady)

The story is set in Santiago, Chile, in 1647, just after a great earthquake.  A young man is in prison, waiting to be executed for taking the virginity and impregnating the young daughter of a Nobel family.  She has just given birth to their child.  She will also be executed but in an act of benevolence she will be hung, not burned at the stake as was normal.  Just before the man prepares, in his prison cell, to hang himself, a powerful very destructive earthquake breaks down his confines.  After escaping, Kleist does a wonderful job depicting the chaos brought on by the quake and the reaction of the church authorities to the quake, the man sets out to find his love.  She is also been freed and is desperately seeking him.  

I do not want to spoil the ending for others but needless to say it is high tragedy.

I found this a very entertaining story.  I have five more left to read, I hope that means five more German Literature Months for The Reading Life.

If you have a favourite 19th century German Short Story, please leave a comment.

Mel ü  

1 comment:

Suko said...

This sounds like a heartbreaking story, from start to finish. Excellent review! I've seen a few posts regarding German Lit Month.