Monday, November 21, 2011

In memoriam Heinrich von Kleist

Two-hundred years ago today Heinrich von Kleist a giant of German literature committed suicide at the Kleiner Wannsee near Berlin at the age of 34. For me he is one of the grand masters of the German language together with Georg Büchner, Heinrich Heine and Berthold Brecht. Goethe and Schiller are great but they did not write with such a density. One critic said if you take just one word away or you try to add a word to one of Kleist's texts the masterpiece is spoiled.

I do not want to develop Kleist's biography. Many new books have been written on the occasion of the sad anniversary. I have read: Peter Michalzik, Kleist, Dichter, Krieger, Seelensucher, Propyläen Verlag Berlin 2011.


The book cover shows the only existing portrait of this disturbing personality. He was soldier, student, dropout, traveler, letter artist, farmer, soul seeker, playwright, civil servant on probation, hater of Napoleon, war correspondent, short novel writer, publisher of a literature magazine, newspaper editor, and rebel who during his whole short life was always attracted by suicide. His "problem" was that he did not want to go alone. All of his friends, although sometimes depressed like him, refused. Eventually he found a 31-year-old married woman, a friend, cancer stricken, Henriette Vogel, who was ready to accompany him on his last journey.

I would like to show some pictures I took from 12 to 15 November attending the Kleist Festival in and around Berlin including a theater marathon with three pieces on three evenings: Der Prinz von Homburg, Penthesilea and Der zerbrochene Krug (The Broken Jug) followed by nightly discussions with the director and actors.


The Maxim Gorki Theater in Berlin Unter den Linden. 
On its frontface Kleist's Das Erdbeben in Chili (The Earthquake in Chile).


The Kleisthaus where Kleist lived during his last years in Berlin
 is not the original building.


The relief at the front shows a scene from Penthelisea and Kleist's profile.


The Kleistmuseum in Frankfurt on the Oder in an old manor house.
The house where Kleist was born was destroyed during the war.


A modern Kleist portrait I like most showing him as a rebel.

We experienced a sunny November morning at the Wannsee, like the one Heinrich and Henriette lived through before their deaths.


Kleist's memorial stone at the place where he shot Henriette first
and later killed himself.


Nun, o Unsterblichkeit bist du ganz mein! (Prinz von Homburg) 
O immortality, now you are all mine!

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