The Duel [Von Kleist]

By Heinrich Von Kleist.
For some reason this seemed a little more dated than the Casanova. Probably because the story is a little more traditional in the telling. The 20th and 21st Centuries have their share of picaresque reminiscences – whereas this quite linear production, where plot is the focus, is more of its time. A number of issues are raised in the novella that are worth considering. The main idea that interested me was that of dueling as an arbiter of guilt or innocence. If you believe in an ordered controlled universe, where the will of God is easily seen in the world, then this is understandable. In this day and age, many Christians believe God to be bound by his own given rationality and unable to interfere in the chaos of existence. Hence, this idea that the outcome of a duel is the finger of God indicating guilt or innocence is surprising to most people. This is an extreme example, but the remains of this philosophy can still be seen today: if you are not successful in life then you have done something to offend God, again, he has pointed his finger at you.
The additional materials were also well worth reading in this edition. The biographies of famous duelists were very entertaining. I can’t say I enjoyed the work as much as Casanova, but it was good, and it generated some thought.

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