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a happy death

March 24, 2010

[Bookforum] On the morning of November 21, 1811, Heinrich von Kleist and his terminally ill friend Henriette Vogel strolled to the shore of the Wannsee, near Berlin, and carried out a suicide pact. A passerby had seen them moments earlier, walking hand in hand, apparently in gay spirits. A few days before, the thirty-four-year-old Kleist had sent his cousin Marie a letter in which he described his life as “the most tormented that any human being has ever lived,” and on the morning of his death he wrote to his half-sister, Ulrike: “The truth is that no one could really help me on this earth. . . . May Heaven grant you a death at least half as happy and full of unutterable joy as mine.” (read)

Selected Prose
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