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  • Published: 9 September 2021
  • ISBN: 9781473593589
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 112

Michael Kohlhaas

Newly translated by Michael Hofmann

One man's fight for revenge against a corrupt justice system. Kleist's influential German novella has been newly translated by the renowned Michael Hofmann.

'I finished it in one sitting. Probably for the tenth time... it carries me along waves of wonder' Franz Kafka

Based on the real life of an ordinary horse-dealer cheated by a government official, Michael Kohlhaas is the darkly comical and magnificently weird story of one man's alienation from a corrupt legal system. When his attempts to claim his rights are thwarted by bureaucracy and nepotism, Kohlhaas vows to take justice into his own - increasingly bloody - hands. Will he be remembered as a dangerous enemy of the peace, or a vigilante hero?

Praised by Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann, Susan Sontag, Roberto Bolaño, Werner Herzog, and J. M. Coetzee, this is one of the most influential tales in German literature. In this vital new translation by the renowned poet Michael Hofmann, Kleist's bizarre, brutal and maddening story is urgent today.

  • Published: 9 September 2021
  • ISBN: 9781473593589
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 112

About the author

Heinrich Von Kleist

HEINRICH VON KLEIST was born in 1777 in Frankfurt, Germany, to a Prussian military family. He was placed into military service at fifteen, fought against the French, and resigned his commission at twenty-one. Unable to obtain a civil service job, he established one of Germany’s first daily newspapers, which failed, and he traveled extensively through a Europe engulfed by the Napoleonic Wars. He was hospitalized for several mysterious illnesses, including surgery for an indeterminate sexual problem that led him to break off a marital engagement. Throughout, he wrote revolutionary plays and stories, such as Penthesilea and The Marquise of O—, embracing realism and rejecting the ideals of eminent German humanists such as Goethe. As part of a suicide pact, Kleist shot dead a terminally-ill friend, then himself, In 1811.

Also by Heinrich Von Kleist

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Praise for Michael Kohlhaas

Michael Kohlhaas is an influential book, loved by best of all by early 20th-century European writers, including Rilke, Mann and Kafka... The wonder of this story is its relentless, vertiginous escalation

John Self, Observer

Michael Kohlhaas could be called a pathology of obsession, or a juridical riddle, or even a kind of magnicent taunt, though none of these is right, or right enough. One must merely read it, and then read it again, staggered by its sheer acceleration, its furious savagery, its vertiginous authority, its exquisite prolongment of closure as event follows improbable event. Kohlhaas is one of literature's eternal characters because he outpaces any interpretive framework. His indomitable reality exceeds our own.

The New Yorker

His sentences are remarkable - great hatchet-blows of thought, an implacable narrative speed, a pulverizing sense of inevitability. No wonder Kafka liked him so much

Paul Auster

I did not write to you last night, it got too late because of Michael Kohlhaas (have you read it? If not, don't! I shall read it to you!); apart from a short section which I had read the day before, I finished it in one sitting. Probably for the tenth time. This is a story I read with true piety; it carries me along waves of wonder.

Franz Kafka

Kleist is a giant, Cervantes's heir and a one-man avant-garde of the modern German novel.

The Guardian

Kleist's narrative language is something completely unique. It is not enough to read it as historical-even in his day nobody wrote as he did. An impetus squeezed out with iron, absolutely un-lyrical detachment brings forth tangled, knotted, overloaded sentences painfully soldered together and driven by a breathless tempo.

Thomas Mann

Michael Kohlhaas: a story about bravery and its twin, stupidity

Roberto Bolaño

Our sort is nothing compared to Kleist.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Sometimes you find a brother, and you instantly know that you are no longer alone. I experienced this with Kleist

Werner Herzog

The morbid, the hysterical, the sense of the unhealthy, the enormous indulgence in suffering out of which Kleist's plays and tales were mined-is just what we value today. Today Kleist gives pleasure, most of Goethe is a classroom bore

Susan Sontag

This sparkling new translation from Michael Hofmann makes for a fine entry point into Kleist's passionate, grotesque, hysterical, and deeply strange body of work

The New Yorker

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