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

Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Marquise of O - A Short Story by Heinrich Von Kleist - 1808 - translated from German 1978 by David Luke

German Literature Month, 2019

Works read so far for German Literature Month, 2019

1. Allmen and The Pink Diamond by Martin Suter, 2011
2. The Marquise of O by Heinrich Von Kleist, 1808

The Marquise of O - A Short Story by Heinrich Von Kliest - 1808 - translated from German 1978 by David Luke

October 18, 1777 - Frankfort, Germany

November 21, 1811 - Berlin,Germany

This is The third time I have posted on a work 
by Heinrich Von Kleist during German Literature Month.  In November 2012 I posted on The Begger Woman of Locorno, during 2017 on The Earth Quake in Chile.  I liked both these stories a lot.Today i am posting on his perhaps most now read work, The Marquise of O.

The opening paragraph sets the stage for the intriguing plot

“IN M—, an important town in northern Italy, the widowed Marquise of O—, a lady of unblemished reputation and the mother of several well-brought-up children, inserted the following announcement in the newspapers: that she had, without knowledge of the cause, come to find herself in a certain situation; that she would like the father of the child she was expecting to disclose his identity to her; and that she was resolved, out of consideration consideration for her family, to marry him. The lady who, under the constraint of unalterable circumstances, had with such boldness taken so strange a step and thus exposed herself to the derision of society, was the daughter of Colonel G—, the Commandant of the citadel at M—. About three years earlier her husband, the Marquis of O—, to whom she was most deeply and tenderly attached, had lost his life in the course of a journey to Paris on family business. At the request of her excellent mother she had, after his death, left the country estate at V—where she had lived hitherto, and had returned with her two children to the house of her father the Commandant. Here she had for the next few years lived a very secluded life, devoted to art and reading, the education of her children.”

As her family estate is being taken over by Russian soldiers, the Russian count in charge of the soldiers stops them from raping the Marquise.  He does continue on to seize the family property as was his military duty.  He soon returns the estate to the father. 

The father is outraged at his daughter, he thinks she is lying and had sex most likely with the Russian count or an unknown person.  He at  first wants her out of the house so she moves to the estate of her late husband.

The Russian count proposes marriage but denies having had sex with her, out of consideration for her family and her honor, to marry him. If they marry, the social code of her time forgets about the outside of marriage sex. first turns this down, saying the barely know him.  He must depart on military matters but the family agrees she will marry no one until he returns and stays with them to allow a mutual love to develop.

The wife places an advertisement in the local newspaper asking the father of her child to come forth. (There is a funny side plot in which a groom claims to be the father.). A response is received saying the father will present himself at family estate at 300 pm  the next day.  The mother of the Marquise makes her father apologize in a very touching scene.  Everyone awaits the arrival,both her father and brother a ready to fight a duel.

The ending is fascinating, showing a lot of psychological depth.

We are left to wonder if the Russian count, of course he is wealthy, is the father and if so did he rape her.

This work, some classify it as a novella, reminded me a lot of shorter set in Italy works by Stendhal. It was fun to read and might have been shocking in 1808.

I read this story in The Marquise of O—AND OTHER STORIES Translated with an Introduction by DAVID LUKE AND NIGEL REEVES, a lovely collection with ten stories.  

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, as well as a very informative introduction. Kleist lived a life worthy of a Romantic poet, ending in a suicide pact with a Lady.

If possible i would like to read his novella, The Betrothal in Santo Domingo, set during period of The Hatai slave revolt.

1 comment:

Mystica said...

I've got this on my Kindle and not got to it as yet. I enjoyed your review. Thank you.