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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • November 28, 2006

     

    [60] The Marquise of O-- & Other Stories - Heinrich von Kleist

    The reading of this collection of short stories spanned my entire getaway, a little short of a month. Not only because I was busy traveling and doing the toursy thing, but also due to the fact that Kleist writing style requires frequent back tracking to assure I understand all that is going on. The world of all the Kleist's stories is an unpredictable one, a world of dislocated casuality on which inexplicable factors include and in which sanity is poised on the brink of destruction. For example, The Marquise of O-- is a detective-type, psychological mystery. An upright widow who has lived in unblemished reputation finds herself pregnant without a clue how and who might have caused her pregnancy. She is clear of her conscience although she finds intolerable the thought that the baby she has conceived in the tymost innocence and purity and whose origin, in addition to being mysterious, also seems to her more divine, is destined to bear a stamina of disgrace in society. But Kleist at first withholds one last fact, which persists to the end and buries in it the key to resolve the situation.

    The stories also reflect Kleist's preoccupations with the deceptiveness of human nature. In The Foundling, the story tells how a man, out of his compassion and kindred spirit, adpots an orphaned boy leads to his own destruction. The coming of age young man lusted after the old man's young wife. When he by chance discovers her strange emotions that fixate on a young Genoese nobleman who, 12 years earlier, had saved her from a burning house, and had died of an injury incurred during the rescue, humiliation, lust, and desire for revenge conspire his mind to engender a deed of vileness. The subsequent turn of events in this story depicts the transformation of an once kind man into an obsessed avenger who literally craves for hell.

    The Duel bears a premise that is similar to that of The Marquise of O----one in which an apparently chaste woman is suspected of unchastity on the basis of seemingly damning evidence. The case against Lady Littegarde would be weakened of this Count Rotbart were obviously a scoundrel, but he is regarded as an honorable man by many, despite his dissolute life. He is on the trial for his life on a charge of murder that, as an alibi, he seemes justified in making his disclosure that the night on which the murder was committed had been spent by him in Lady Littegarde's bedroom. She can invoke no testimony except that of her irreproachable way of life against all the accusations of her shameful conduct. A chamberlain who vows to prove her innocence urges her to hold fast at all costs to her inner intuitive feeling that she is innocent, notwithstanding all the indications to the contrary.

    I have always talked about the beguiling opening sentence of The Earthquake of Chile, which raises the deepest theological and existential questions. It reveals Kleist's epistemological obsession, his preoccupation with the tragic or potentially tragic deceptiveness of appearances in the world and in human nature. In reading Kleist we may realize that our own familiar and dependable moral framework seem to have weakened and shaken loose. You have to read it for yourself.

    In The Betrothal in Santo Domingo, the essential theme of the story is not the cruelty of man to man, nor even the unaccountable operations of God (like in The Duel or The Earthquake of Chile) or nature or fate, but that of love being put on trial. The lovers are confronted with an ambiguity of appearances, with ambiguous behavior on the part of the beloved, which leads to a fatal understanding, with tragic results. All the character has (to judge with) is tangible evidence of senses: to grasp something so intangible as the reality of love. Again, this story is built up in series of twists and turns that keeps reversing reader's assumptions and expectations, to an extent in which we don't know who really the characters are.

    3 Comments:

    Blogger johnNokc said...

    Hi Matt -- Your extended visit will, I'm sure, provide you a lifetime of memories and I thank you for sharing your trip with us. That being said, I'm glad you're home.

    11/29/2006 6:48 AM  
    Blogger Greg said...

    Sounds very intriguing. I may have to find a copy of this....

    11/29/2006 4:52 PM  
    Anonymous danielle said...

    This author sounded good when you first mentioned him before. I am not really a very good short story reader, but these sound intriguing! I will have to add it to my wish list!

    11/30/2006 6:36 AM  

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