Other Literary Forms
Heinrich von Kleist’s fame as the author of short stories and novellas almost matches his fame as a playwright. The novella Michael Kohlhaas (1810; English translation, 1844), perhaps Kleist’s best-known narrative work, tells the story of a Reformation-era merchant whose thirst for justice becomes an obsession, overturning the social order but never achieving satisfaction. Die Marquise von O——— (1808; The Marquise of O———, 1960), incorporating themes of objective versus subjective reality often found in Kleist’s plays, presents the predicament of a young unmarried woman impregnated while unconscious. She knows herself to be virtuous, yet she is spurned by society. Other stories include “Das Erdbeben in Chile” (1807; “The Earthquake in Chile,” 1946), “Die Verlobung in St. Domingo” (1811; “The Betrothal in St. Domingo,” 1960), “Das Bettelweib von Locarno” (1811; “The Foundling,” 1960), and “Die heilige Cäcilie: Oder, Die Gewalt der Musik” (1811; “The Duel,” 1960). Much of Kleist’s fiction can be found in the two-volume Erzählungen (1810-1811; “The Marquise of O” and Other Stories, 1960).