“His death was a show”

  On the afternoon of November 21, 200 years ago, two shots were fired from the edge of a pond called Little Wansee near Berlin, Germany. The then-unknown 34-year-old playwright and novelist Heinrich, Feng, and Kleist first shot and killed his 31-year-old girlfriend Henriette, then shot himself in the mouth, killing him instantly.
  Kleist’s death caused a sensation in German society at the time. He became famous not because of his work but because of his shocking suicide. In the Christian society at the time, suicide was a forbidden behavior, a “humiliating” event, and he also made an appointment with a “married woman” to die. Why did he die from a noble family? What was his relationship with Henriette? Martyrdom? Or are there other reasons? For 200 years, Kleist’s suicide has been a topic of interest to literary historians and the history of Ye Wen and barnyard. attracted the attention of many biographers. Today, Kleist’s achievements in artistic creation and his status in the history of German literature have been recognized by the world, and he is even known as “the greatest playwright in Germany”, second only to Goethe and Schiller. On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of his death, Germany designated this year as the “2011 Kleist Year”, and launched various commemorative activities with rich contents throughout Germany and even around the world. Kleist was thoroughly researched and reinterpreted, and his death was once again a hot topic.
  Kleist was born in a noble family in Germany in 1777. Following the family tradition, he joined the Potsdam Guards at the age of 15 and became a child soldier on the battlefield. He witnessed the cruelty of the war with his own eyes, and the shadow of death followed him. Unable to endure life in the army, he gave up his military qualifications and entered university after 7 years. During this period, he experienced the so-called “Kant crisis”: he originally thirsted for knowledge, but in Kant he found that “there is no absolute truth” and “all knowledge is incomplete”. He gave up his university studies and became a clerk, but could not stand the bureaucracy and left. In order to obtain a life commensurate with his aristocratic status, he became engaged to the daughter of a nobleman, but the idea of ​​going to the Swiss countryside with his fiancee to become a farmer was shattered, so he broke off the engagement and came to Switzerland alone. During this period he created a series of works, but the impact was not great. He was once close to the Prussian authorities, but was later abandoned. He loves to travel, travels to and from many places, and was once caught as a spy. In 1810, he started his own “Berlin Evening News” and became a newspaper publisher. But newspapers that could bring huge benefits to him and his investors failed government scrutiny. On November 21, 1811, he chose to commit suicide.
  Kleist was a writer in the Romantic period in German literary history. He lived in the late period of Goethe and Schiller and had contacts with Goethe, but he was not appreciated by Goethe. Kleist created a period in which German idealism prevailed, but he went against it, and his works were full of violence, failure, doubt, revenge, and full of modernism. He did not belong to the era in which he lived. Compared with Goethe, who was famous before his death, he had an ill-fated life, and it did not shine brightly until more than 100 years after his death. He left behind few works, but in his short life of 34 years, he was a prolific writer. What’s more, his actual creative career is only 10 years, and most of the time is spent while traveling. He mainly wrote 8 plays and 8 novels during his lifetime, including “Broken Urn”, “Earthquake in Chile”, “0 Marquise”, “Battle of Hermann”, “Pentecilia” and “Little Katexin of Heilbronn” Works such as “Horse Dealer Kohlhaas” and “Prince Humboldt” were not very influential at the time. His plays could not be staged, his novels could not be published, and he was unknown in the public. The 1808 comedy “Broken Urn” was directed by Goe-de but failed miserably, which made him miss the Weimar literary circle at that time.
  He is a very controversial writer. His creations often reveal the nationalist sentiments of the Prussian Kingdom. The themes of violence in his works, especially “terror and violence in the name of justice”, are even more controversial. In the 1920s, his plays were frequently staged, and he became the hottest playwright of the Nazi era. The patriotism and nationalism revealed in his works such as “Prince Humboldt” and “Battle of Hermann” were exploited by the Nazis. The inscription on his tombstone was left by the Nazi government in 1941 – “Ah, immortal, now you are completely mine” (from his work “Prince Humboldt”). He was also cast aside as a Nazi long after the war.
  His death was also highly controversial. His suicide did not seem to elicit much sympathy at the time. Christians scoffed at him, his body was not allowed to be buried in the church cemetery, and people had to bury it on the spot where he committed suicide. King William III was annoyed by his suicide, seeing it as a disgrace to the royal family and the country for a man from a hereditary noble family to take his own life in this way. At the King’s insinuation, the then autopsy report stated that Kleist “suffered from depression,” a claim that continued into the late 19th century, and the first autopsy report at the time found the writer to be of normal mental state. The literati at that time did not think highly of him. After his suicide, Goethe said, “His work is as hopeless as his #L-“, which greatly influenced the way the world viewed him. It was not until 100 years later that modernist writers Deblin, Kafka, Thomas, Mann, etc. gave him due evaluation. Now, people have a more in-depth understanding and comprehensive research on him, but the reasons for his suicide are still divided. Some say he is emotionally aggressive, short-tempered, violent and prone to extremes. Although he was born in an aristocratic family, his family was declining, his life was embarrassed, and his parents died early, which all had some negative effects on his character. Some said he was short, stuttering, and unpopular among women, so he had to find a woman to kill himself with. Some say he was at odds with the Prussian government and the king, and was snubbed by the royal family he once ardently supported. Some people say that he was a fanatical patriot, and the defeat of Prussia in the Napoleonic Wars was a fatal blow to him. Some people say that his creations are not recognized and his existence value is not reflected. The direct cause of his suicide was that his newspaper was blocked, he lost his job, and the process of finding a job again was extremely difficult due to the obstruction of the bureaucracy. He was nearly bankrupt and faced enormous financial pressure.
  These statements all glimpse a certain aspect of Kleist’s tragic life. In fact, his attitude to life, his strongly modern creations, all reveal his ethos far beyond his time. He is a modern man living in the pre-modern age, and this is where his tragedy lies. In a letter to his cousin Mary, he said: “I will never live long, my soul is scarred… Even a little sunlight from the window on the tip of my nose would make me miserable…” In the letter he wrote to his sister Ulico before committing suicide, he summed up the tragic existence of his life by saying, “It is useless for me to live in this world.”
  In fact, Kleist had already had suicidal thoughts as early as 1801. He spent the next few years looking for someone who could die with him. He lobbied Mary and several of his sisters, but was rejected. Then he meets the terminally ill Henriette, who is exactly the person he’s looking for. The evaluation of this woman was mixed, with some saying she was educated and rigorous in life, while others said she lived a dissolute life. But to Kleist, none of these matters. What matters is that this woman is willing to die with him. They didn’t know each other for long. Regarding the relationship between the two, some people think that they are just ordinary friends, not lovers. Some say perhaps Henry was a little in love with Kleist. In his letter to Mary, Kleist mentioned that he did not regard Henry as a lover, but that they were “close in spirit”.
  Kleist orchestrated the suicide. In “The Last 24 Hours of Kleist”, he handled his affairs in an orderly manner as if he were preparing a project. He settled the amount owed to his barber, went with his girlfriend Henriette to the place they had chosen to commit suicide, and rented a small hotel near the lake: he wrote to those chosen to take care of their affairs friends, and carefully booked two rooms for them in the hotel. He is also thoughtful about the impact of suicide. He anticipated a sensation after his death, and also anticipated that the event might have an impact on the Prussian royal family. He wanted to signal and condemn the suicide he planned and directed: to the bureaucratic government that destroyed his Evening Zeitung, to the military that refused to rehire him
A bureaucratic reproach; a reproach for the disappointment of the Prussian state he once loved, the society. Experts believe that the poet’s suicide was “an excellent plan” and a successful performance. This neglected man committed suicide to draw attention to himself. He has succeeded in doing this. This whole life is full of crises and disasters. He has spent his whole life trying to overcome crises and try a new life, but it always ends in failure. This suicide attempt is so successful.
  According to eyewitness accounts at the time, Kleist and Henriette died with joy and joy. They wrote farewell letters to relatives and friends at the hotel. They drank coffee, drinks, and took a walk by the lake. The two joked with each other, chased and jumped like children, and threw stones in the lake. They are in a good mood, without the melancholy and sadness of dying, as if death would bring them ultimate happiness. This is one of the reasons why later generations are keen to explore the mystery of Kleist’s suicide.
  In 1807, Kleist saw a painting in a church in what is now Champagne, France. The central figure in the painting is a dying woman. She is in a half-sitting position, her body is lying back, and she is used for two days. Hands supported her sinking body. Kleist talked about the painting many times in his letters to friends. He did not recognize the technique of the painting at the time, but he greatly appreciated the theme of the painting, thinking that it represented death as bliss, “I also I have never seen such a moving and commendable painting.” The poet is very interested in the two angels in the painting, “The angels come from the heavens of infinite joy to the earth to greet a soul…How tenderly they touch this dying man…a man who has finally escaped the hand of fate. She The eyes that were about to go out of the light of life looked at them as if they saw the field of bliss.” The researchers explained in great detail that Kleist saw “the bliss of death” in this painting, and he must think that the painting This posture of death is shown to facilitate the angels taking the souls of the deceased into heaven. The writer hopes to “continue to live forever after death”, and hopes that he will be taken away from this painful world by angels after his death. Therefore, he carefully arranged the death poses of himself and Henriette according to the appearance of the painting. According to detailed records in the archives, Henryt was lying on his back exactly like the picture. Kleist was a little regretful. Because he died instantly after shooting himself, he couldn’t control his posture. He knelt on Henry’s side, leaned forward, and turned his head to one side.
  Today, the painting, used as an example by Kleist, is kept on the top floor of the Beaux-Art Museum in Besançon, France, guarded by two guards. The Kleist cemetery near Berlin received a government grant of 500,000 euros to be renovated, the epitaph was rewritten, and the surrounding area of ​​the cemetery was developed into a scenic area. Visitors here can wear headphones to listen to eyewitness accounts of Kleist’s death and related testimonies at the time. In Berlin one can also see “The Death of Kleist” which was filmed and staged. Kleist left behind an artistic creation full of tension. His death was a show, and this show also became a pioneering performance artist.

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