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Jonathan Steinberg: My Jolly Corner, 17 May 1984

... get a lot for your 90 cents on the subway) was revealed to me. The truth came in a remark made by Heinrich vonKleist: ‘One could divide people into two classes, those who understand themselves by metaphor, and those who understand themselves by formula. Those who understand themselves by both are too few to make up ...

Hurt in the Guts

Joe Dunthorne: A Masterpiece and a Disaster, 1 April 2021

Michael Kohlhaas 
by Heinrich vonKleist, translated by Michael Hofmann.
New Directions, 112 pp., £11.99, April 2020, 978 0 8112 2834 3
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... There​ are few suicide notes more ecstatic than those of Heinrich vonKleist and Henriette Vogel, who died together on 21 November 1811. ‘May heaven grant you a death even half as joyous and inexpressibly cheerful as mine,’ Kleist wrote to his sister ...


Michael Neve, 8 November 1990

The Double in 19th-Century Fiction 
by John Herdman.
Macmillan, 174 pp., £35, August 1990, 9780333490242
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Romanticism and the Sciences 
edited by Andrew Cunningham and Nicholas Jardine.
Cambridge, 345 pp., £40, June 1990, 0 521 35602 4
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Schizophrenia: A Scientific Delusion? 
by Mary Boyle.
Routledge, 248 pp., £35, September 1990, 0 415 04096 5
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... on about it and, as it were, getting nowhere before at last getting to the madhouse. The life of Heinrich vonKleist, discussed by Nigel Reeves in Romanticism and the Sciences, was exactly fashioned around this collapse. Reason was revealed to be a fraud, the world a perverted madhouse, peopled with spectral ...


Elaine Jordan, 21 April 1983

The Viaduct 
by David Wheldon.
Bodley Head, 176 pp., £5.95, March 1983, 0 370 30519 1
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Rates of Exchange 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 310 pp., £7.95, April 1983, 0 436 06505 3
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by Maggie Ross.
Collins, 280 pp., £8.95, April 1983, 0 00 222602 2
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No Place on Earth 
by Christa Wolf, translated by Jan van Heurck.
Virago, 110 pp., £6.95, March 1983, 9780860683636
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Look at me 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 192 pp., £7.50, March 1983, 0 224 02055 2
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Not Not While the Giro and Other Stories 
by James Kelman.
Polygon, 207 pp., £3.95, March 1983, 9780904919653
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... has sent A., the hero of The Viaduct, to prison no longer seems of any significance to him. For Kleist, as imagined in No Place on Earth, ‘the passion which swept him away ... was the seduction of words far more than the need to communicate with any particular human being.’ In Malcolm Bradbury’s Rates of Exchange, stories are a currency like any ...

The Atom School

Theo Tait: J.M. Coetzee, 3 November 2016

The Schooldays of Jesus 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Harvill Secker, 260 pp., £17.99, August 2016, 978 1 911215 35 6
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... of canonical allusions to be pored over: as well as Dostoevsky and Plato, there is Don Quixote, Heinrich vonKleist, Bach and, of course, the Gospels. David is preoccupied with whether people ‘recognise’ him; towards the book’s climax, such as it is, there is a census, an ‘orgy of measurement’. Clearly, The ...

‘Famous for its Sausages’

David Blackbourn, 2 January 1997

The Politics of the Unpolitical: German Writers and the Problem of Power, 1770-1871 
by Gordon A. Craig.
Oxford, 190 pp., £22.50, July 1995, 0 19 509499 9
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... all about des Gedankens Blässe – the pale cast of thought. Others played on the same theme. For Heinrich Heine the Germans reigned supreme only ‘in the realm of dreams’; Marx sneered that they had only thought what other peoples had done. These contemporary cadences were surely in the mind of a modern historian, Rolf Engelsing, when he suggested that ...

Unquiet Deaths

Patrick Parrinder, 3 September 1987

Two Lives and a Dream 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated by Walter Kaiser.
Aidan Ellis, 245 pp., £9.95, July 1987, 0 85628 160 3
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The Wedding at Port-au-Prince 
by Hans Christoph Buch, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Faber, 259 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 571 14928 6
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Saints and Scholars 
by Terry Eagleton.
Verso, 145 pp., £9.95, September 1987, 0 86091 180 2
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Imperial Patient: The Memoirs of Nero’s Doctor 
by Alex Comfort.
Duckworth, 206 pp., £10.95, June 1987, 0 7156 2168 8
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... portrayed at Port-au-Prince, only funerals. In fact, Buch is paying homage to a short story by Heinrich vonKleist, ‘The Betrothal at Santo Domingo’ (1811). Here a Swiss fugitive during the native rebellion mistrusts the half-breed girl to whom he has proposed, and shoots her dead before she has time to agree to ...

The Taste of Peapods

Matthew Reynolds: E.L. Doctorow, 11 February 2010

Homer and Langley 
by E.L. Doctorow.
Little, Brown, 224 pp., £11.99, January 2010, 978 1 4087 0215 4
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... exercise’ done to see if he could create a narrative as ‘relentless’ as those he admired in Heinrich vonKleist, sacrificing ‘psychological complexity’ in order to wield ‘that really marvellous tool for a novelist, the sense of forward motion’. Once the narrative is underway, he drives it with all the ...

Princely Pride

Jonathan Steinberg: Emperor Frederick III, 10 May 2012

Our Fritz: Emperor Frederick III and the Political Culture of Imperial Germany 
by Frank Lorenz Müller.
Harvard, 340 pp., £33.95, October 2011, 978 0 674 04838 6
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... decent thing. At 84, the old man simply would not die. Worse, his ‘over-mighty subject’ Otto von Bismarck, in spite of constant illness and breakdowns, continued to exercise his power over the old emperor. The crown prince felt utterly useless: ‘fifty years, life therefore behind me, idle observer in daily self-denial, discipline practised over a ...

The Man Who Knew Everybody

Jonathan Steinberg: Kessler’s Diaries, 23 May 2013

Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, 1880-1918 
edited and translated by Laird Easton.
Knopf, 924 pp., £30, December 2011, 978 0 307 26582 1
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... than to Shakespeare or Goethe, an oratorical rather than a poetic genius. Hildegard Freifrau Hugo von Spitzemberg, the greatest diarist of the previous generation in Germany and the mother of one of Kessler’s friends, knew him well. Kessler dined with her almost weekly during the 1890s. Kessler had no idea that the ‘fat old lady’ at whose table he dined ...

Dialectical Satire

Paul Edwards, 18 September 1986

The Madhouse 
by Alexander Zinoviev, translated by Michael Kirkwood.
Gollancz, 411 pp., £12.95, July 1986, 9780575037304
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by Nicholas Mosley.
Secker, 298 pp., £11.95, August 1986, 0 436 28853 2
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Missing Persons 
by David Cook.
Alison Press/Secker, 184 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 436 10675 2
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Only by Mistake 
by P.J. Kavanagh.
Calder, 158 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 7145 4084 6
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... obtained in the Garden of Eden. One of the most haunting meditations on this Faustian theme is Heinrich vonKleist’s essay of 1810, ‘On the Marionette Theatre’. Perfect grace is attainable by mechanical dancing puppets because they have a single centre of gravity; their movements are undisturbed by ...

Why should you be the only ones that sin?

Colm Tóibín, 5 September 1996

Thomas Mann: Eros and Literature 
by Anthony Heilbut.
Macmillan, 636 pp., £20, June 1996, 9780394556338
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Thomas Mann: A Biography 
by Ronald Hayman.
Bloomsbury, 672 pp., £20, March 1996, 0 7475 2531 5
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Thomas Mann: A Life 
by Donald Prater.
Oxford, 554 pp., £20, September 1995, 0 19 815861 0
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... taking holidays. Long before he met Katia in Munich he had seen the portrait by Fritz August von Kaulbach of her as a Pierrette with her four brothers as Pierrots. ‘The young Thomas,’ Katia wrote in her book Unwritten Memories, who was 14 years old at the time the picture was done (I was six), was still living in Lübeck and, like so many ...

Don’t fight sober

Mike Jay, 5 January 2017

Shooting Up: A History of Drugs in Warfare 
by Łukasz Kamieński.
Hurst, 381 pp., £25, March 2016, 978 1 84904 551 3
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Blitzed: Drugs In Nazi Germany 
by Norman Ohler.
Allen Lane, 360 pp., £20, October 2016, 978 0 241 25699 2
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... use of Pervitin became official military policy for the invasion of France in 1940. Field Marshal von Brauchitsch, the army’s commander in chief, requested a directive detailing the optimal doses and frequencies in order to maximise the drug’s benefits and minimise its negative consequences. On 17 April a ‘stimulant decree’ written by Ranke was sent ...

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