Tuesday 3 September 2019

Book Review: The Marquise of O-- by Heinrich von Kleist (Classic)

Title: The Marquise of O--
Author: Heinrich von Kleist
Pushkin Press

Publication Date: 7 January 2020
eBook - PDF
ARC via NetGalley


In a Northern Italian town during the Napoleonic Wars, Julietta, a young widow and mother of impeccable reputation, finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. This follows an attack on the town's citadel, in which several Russian soldiers tried to assault her before she was rescued by Count F-, at which point she fell unconscious. Thrown out of her father's house, Julietta publishes an announcement in the local newspaper stating that she is pregnant and would like the father of her child to make himself known so that she can marry him.

What follows is an ambiguously comic drama of sexuality and family respectability. One of Kleist's best-loved works, The Marquise of O- is an ingenious and timeless story of the mystery of human desire, and Nicholas Jacobs's new translation captures the full richness of its irony.

The Marquise of O-- is an interesting read, not least due to its strange tragicomic balance. Essentially based around a rape, the story is, nonetheless, a study of the nature of respectability and blame. For some modern readers, this book's premise alone may be too difficult, but if you are willing to give it a go, it does pose some moral conundrums and stylist interest, even if you cannot accept how the marquise's difficulties resolve. For me, this is a 3.5 star-read. It was engaging if a tad contrived at times.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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