Not much vnlike the wondrer haue ye another figure called the doubtfull, because oftentimes we will seeme to cast perils, and make doubt of things when by a plaine manner of speech wee might affirme or deny him.


Eça de Quierós, The Maias

Life in this bed of roses, however, was not without its longueurs. It was not at all amusing to sit in silence, in an armchair, listening to the endless discussions between Carlos and Craft on art and science. And as he confessed later, he did feel slightly put out when they took him to the laboratory to perform electrical experiments on his body. “They held me down like two demons,” he told the Countess de Gouvarinho, “and I’ve always hated any kind of spiritualism!”

She sat down, they offered her champagne, and Dona Adosinda began to reveal herself to be a truly astonishing creature. They were talking about politics, about the government and the deficit. Dona Adosinda immediately announced that she knew the deficit very well, and that he was a lovely fellow. The deficit “a lovely fellow” – well, everyone roared with laughter. Dona Adosinda became annoyed and declared that she had been to Sintra with him, and that he was a perfect gentleman and worked for the Bank of England.

Ega got up and made a desolate gesture: “We have failed in life, my friend!”

Breyten Breytenbach, Mouroir

Over his white robe in which the wind was trapped like the wings of anxious seagulls he wore a jacket buttoned to the chin and around the head he had wrapped a turban and on his face he had a pointed beard. He thoughtfully fondled the sharpness of the hairy little sword on his chin and carefully and slowly explained to us from deep in his throat that he could, upon request, rapidly accompany us to a place where we might obtain assistance, but only the men would be allowed to come. This after all, was dictated by the customs of Islam. And concerning the women we weren’t to worry excessively for they would be safe here during our brief absence. But we had to take our shoes off. With the guide we clambered over the sandhill and sunk to our knees in the shifts and the slides of the surface. Behind the hill we saw the grey sandflats decorated with shadows of all shapes. Like more palpable shadows there were also broad drawers standing upright, half buried in the sand itself, with shiny knobs by which they could be opened upwards. The Arab with the burnt-out eyes asked us whether we wished to arrive at our destination quickly or less quickly or less slowly or slowly or in God’s own time. We said: as soon as possible, please. Rather, that was my answer, and I assume the others answered in the same way. Thus he opened the left most “drawer” and we climbed in. And with a giddy speed we tumbled down, transported by a vertical conveyer belt, until down below we were spilt head over heels on a square. In the middle of the square was a fountain. Around this square with its fountain there were the fronts of tall buildings – some were even palaces. A crowd of people with smiles wreathed around their mouths strolled up and down and then stopped to listen with cocked heads how the spouting water plunges back with a rinkle-tinkle. It was warm in that place. And it was evening because spray-lights lit up the buildings and shone through the tree of water. I think it must have been in Switzerland. A long long time ago.

Patrizia Cavalli

It has fifteen lines, but still seems like Petrarch to me.

Adesso che il tempo sembra tutto mio
e nessuno mi chiama per il pranzo e per la cena,
adesso che posso rimanere a guardare
come si scioglie una nuvola e come si scolora,
come cammina un gatto per il tetto
nel lusso immenso di una esplorazione, adesso
che ogni giorno mi aspetta
la sconfinata lunghezza di una notte
dove non c’è richiamo e non c’è piú ragione
di spogliarsi in fretta per riposare dentro
l’accecante dolcezza di un corpo che mi aspetta,
adesso che il mattino non ha mai principio
e silenzioso mi lascia ai miei progetti
a tutte le cadenze della voce, adesso
vorrei improvvisamente la prigione.

(tr. Judith Baumel)
Now that time seems all mine
and no one calls me for lunch or dinner,
now that I can stay to watch
how a cloud loosens and loses its color,
how a cat walks on the roof
in the immense luxury of a prowl, now
that what waits for me every day
is the unlimited length of a night
where there is no call and no longer a reason
to undress in a hurry to rest inside
the blinding sweetness of a body that waits for me,
now that the morning no longer has a beginning
and silently leaves me to my plans,
to all the cadences of my voice, now
suddenly I would like prison.

Bessie Head, A Question of Power

By Sunday evening, exhausted, she thought quietly to herself: ‘Sello, after all, is just a fool, and he looks like a monkey.’

She closed her eyes, wearily. There was an instant attack from Medusa. She stood next to brown-suit and said, accusingly, ‘You see, she says you look like a monkey. What are you going to do about it?’

As Elizabeth watched, brown-suit’s face slowly changed to the shape of an owl. He said: ‘Oh, no, I’m not a monkey. I’m a wise old owl.’

She jerked upright in bed. What was this? Did it mean she had no privacy left?

Gerardo Diego, Cuadro


El mantel                  jirón del cielo
es mi estandarte
y el licor del poniente
da su reflejo al arte

Yo prefiero el mar cerrado
y al sol le pongo sordina
Mi poesía y las manzanas
hacen la atmósfera más fina

En medio la guitarra


Ella recoge el aire circundante
Es el desnudo nuevo
venus del siglo o madona sin infante

Bajo sus cuerdas los ríos pasan
y los pájaros beben el agua sin mancharla

Después de ver el cuadro
la luna es más precisa
y la vida más bella

El espejo doméstico ensaya una sonrisa
y en un transporte de pasión
canta el agua enjaulada en la botella

A la orilla gastada del camino
mi sombra y yo nos despedimos

Y el tren que pasaba
ha dejado mis manos colmadas de racimos



The tablecloth                 shred of sky
is my banner
and the western liquor
gives up its reflection to art

I prefer the sea to be shut
and put a mute on the sun
Apples and my poems
make a finer atmosphere

In the center the guitar

                   Let us love it

It collects the surrounding air
It is the naked new
venus of the century or madonna without child

Under its strings pass rivers
and birds drink the water staining it not

Having seen the picture
the moon is more precise
and life more beautiful

The household mirror tries out a smile
and in passionate transports
the water sings caged in its bottle

At the worn-out roadside
I said farewell to my shadow

And the train going by
left bunches of fruit filling my hands

Mercè Rodoreda, Quanta, Quanta Guerra

I was born at midnight, in autumn, with a lentil-sized mark on my forehead. My mother, when I misbehaved, would say, half turning her back to me, you look like a Cain. Josep had a scar on his left thigh, the inner part, shaped like a fish, that made people laugh. Rossend, the son of the junkman who lent us his donkey and wheelbarrow to take carnations to market, had red on the tip of his nose and made people laugh. Ramón, the butcher’s son, had pointy ears and made people laugh. I didn’t make anyone laugh. Whenever they joined together and attacked me because I didn’t want to join in their games, I would force them to retreat, shouting that the devil was my uncle and had marked my forehead before I was born so that he could recognize me later, even among other boys. When I was three, because my mother never wanted to cut the hair that fell in ringlets on both sides of my neck, everyone took me for a girl. The day that my mother took me to see Father Sebastià so I could be enrolled in school, Father Sebastià regarded me with pity and said: we don’t admit girls here. My mother burst out with explanations, saying that it hurt her to cut my hair, so pretty, that I was still just a baby and would get cold without the hair, and while she explained this, I, who already knew how to write my name, went up to the board, took the chalk and wrote in white on black, in large, crooked letters: Adrià Guinart. Father Sebastià suddenly noticed, joined his hands and said: what an archangel!

I started school with my hair cut close, distraught at not having it like before, and more knowledgable than the other boys. Father Sebastiá had me sit at his side while he explained Sacred History, because if I sat on the bench he said that my look bothered him, it was too fixed. We had a thick binder, full of large pictures, that was kept in the cupboard with the notebooks, pencils and chalk. While he talked I, always I, had to pick out with the pointer what was being named: the Dead Sea, Moses’s staff, the Tablets of the Law, the tree of good and evil, Adam and Eve wearing fig leaves. Point to Samson. The shame killed me, having to point to the man who’d lost his strength because they cut his hair. Point to the angel of the Annunciation. With the great lily before Mary, blond, with ringlets like mine before starting school, the angel used the feathers of his wings, a blue stripe, a green stripe, to hold himself up in the air. At the illustration of the Flood all the boys in the class, even the sleepiest and most absent-minded, came to life. While I followed the rainbow’s colored curve with my pointer, I imagined I was flying between the green and the violet, the yellow and the pink…. Hadn’t Father Sebastià said I was an archangel? Archangels flew. Cain and Abel. I didn’t breathe. Abel kept sheep. Cain plowed the earth and sweated. I dreamed Sacred History, I dreamed angels, I dreamed saints, I dreamed myself living Sacred History, crossing deserts and causing water to pour from the fountains. On the day we had the illustrated Crucifixion, when I got to the field of carnations I ran from one side to the other, stood on tiptoe, up high, high as I could, so I could hear the stars saying, poor boy, poor boy, he has no wings….


The house was old, the sink smelled bad, the faucet dripped. On windy days the cold got in through the cracks, but in fine weather the smell of flowers sprang up in every corner. My father, on Sundays when he didn’t feel like going to see his cousins, took me on walks. We spent hours sitting on a slope, and sometimes the wind would carry tiny threads pulled from the hearts of the scrawny flowers, and some would stick to your clothes. The people were all identical: with legs, with thighs, with eyes, with mouths, with teeth. From the hand of my father, who was tall and good, I descended straight as a stick. I don’t know why girls filled me with rage; if I ever managed to catch one I would wring her neck like a bird’s. They stole love from the mothers.


A neighbor woman who worked in the fabric mill had a baby girl. One Saturday afternoon she asked my mother to watch her. I was terribly worried: my mother had told me that she’d gone to buy a little sister, that I’d never again be alone, that we’d have a girl in the house who would laugh and cry. When I asked her why she’d bought a girl and not a boy, she said that she’d already gotten the notice announcing that it would be a girl. That Saturday afternoon my mother told me that she had to go and talk to someone about selling the carnations, and she told me to watch the neighbor’s baby, above all to make sure that the cat didn’t come near. As soon as my mother left, I went to see the sleeping girl and the cat that my mother had shut in the kitchen. The girl was named Mariona, had a pinkish color and wore golden earrings. She was stretched out across two adjoining chairs. I picked her up and put her on the floor. She let out a wail that cut off my breathing. I started to undress her as if I were undressing a doll, took off the little shirt, little pants, took off the linens and little wool shoes. I couldn’t take off the earrings because I didn’t know how they opened. When I had her like a grub, I put her in a towel and dragged her, pulling the towel, to where the fields began. The sunlight had just woken her up. Curled at her side, I examined her vacant gums and her hair, scarce and very fine. Her eyes were colored violet with golden sparkles. Maddened at feeling older than her, at her smallness, I went and ripped up all the violets. Only her eyes ought to be violets. In the middle of the field, between two rows of carnations, inside the irrigation channel, I made her a bed of green, circular violet leaves. And afraid that she would break, I placed her there. For a moment she stopped breathing; then at once, with her mouth open wide as my hand, she started to cry. I had the urge to take her to the roof and throw her off, through the hole in the broken railing. I went running to find the cat. I put it next to her and waited silently. Look at the cat… look…. I took one of her little hands and ran it over the furry cat, who suddenly tried to escape, jumped over her and scratched her chest. My mother had told somebody or other that if babies cried for too long without stopping, they would finally break up. Hush, pretty girl. I thought she would break like a cup when it falls between your hands. The baby was covered in blood. My mother beat me furiously. I wanted to die. I went up to the roof of the tool shed and threw myself off. I landed on all fours. And that night, which was moonlit, I spent throwing myself off the shed. After a short while my first sister was born. That night I planted myself. After scooping out a deep hole at the foot of the hazel tree, I put myself inside and covered myself in dirt up to the knees. I’d brought the watering can, full to the top, and I watered myself. I wanted roots to come out of me: to be all branches and leaves.

Heinrich von Kleist, eine Anekdote

Mutwille des Himmels

Der in Frankfurt an der Oder, wo er ein Infanterieregiment besaß, verstorbene General Dieringshofen, ein Mann von strengem und rechtschaffenem Charakter, aber dabei von manchen Eigentümlichkeiten und Wunderlichkeiten, äußerte, als er, in spätem Alter, an einer langwierigen Krankheit, auf den Tod darniederlag, seinen Widerwillen, unter die Hände der Leichenwäscherinnen zu fallen. Er befahl bestimmt, daß niemand, ohne Ausnahme, seinen Leib berühren solle; daß er ganz und gar in dem Zustand, in welchem er sterben würde, mit Nachtmütze, Hosen und Schlafrock, wie er sie trage, in den Sarg gelegt und begraben sein wolle; und bat den damaligen Feldprediger seines Regiments, Herrn P…, welcher der Freund seines Hauses war, die Sorge für die Vollstreckung dieses seines letzten Willens zu übernehmen. Der Feldprediger P… versprach es ihm: er verpflichtete sich, um jedem Zufall vorzubeugen, bis zu seiner Bestattung, von dem Augenblick an, da er verschieden sein würde, nicht von seiner Seite zu weichen. Darauf nach Verlauf mehrerer Wochen, kömmt, bei der ersten Frühe des Tages, der Kammerdiener in das Haus des Feldpredigers, der noch schläft, und meldet ihm, daß der General um die Stunde der Mitternacht schon, sanft und ruhig, wie es vorauszusehen war, gestorben sei. Der Feldprediger P… zieht sich, seinem Versprechen getreu, sogleich an, und begibt sich in die Wohnung des Generals. Was aber findet er? – Die Leiche des Generals schon eingeseift auf einem Schemel sitzen: der Kammerdiener, der von dem Befehl nichts gewußt, hatte einen Barbier herbeigerufen, um ihm vorläufig zum Behuf einer schicklichen Ausstellung, den Bart abzunehmen. Was sollte der Feldprediger unter so wunderlichen Umständen machen? Er schalt den Kammerdiener aus, daß er ihn nicht früher herbei gerufen hatte; schickte den Barbier, der den Herrn bei der Nase gefaßt hielt, hinweg, und ließ ihn, weil doch nichts anders übrig blieb, eingeseift und mit halbem Bart, wie er ihn vorfand, in den Sarg legen und begraben.

Heaven’s Caprice

General Dieringshofen passed away in Frankfurt on the Oder, where he commanded an infantry regiment; a man of stern and upright character, but also of many quirks and oddities, he expressed his horror, when he lay dying of prolonged illness at an advanced age, of falling into the hands of the mortuary washerwomen. He gave specific orders that no one, without exception, was to touch his body; that he was to be laid in the coffin and buried exactly as he was found at death, in his customary nightcap, nightshirt and trousers; and asked Herr P., at that time the regiment’s chaplain and a household friend, to take on the responsibility of carrying out this last wish. The chaplain P. promised that in order to prevent any accident, he would undertake not to leave the general’s side from the moment he passed away until the burial. So after several weeks, at first daylight, the valet calls at the chaplain’s house, the chaplain still sleeping, to report that at the hour of midnight, calmly and peacefully as expected, the general has died. True to his promise, the chaplain P. immediately gets dressed and goes to the general’s quarters. And what does he find? – The general’s body sitting on a stool, already soaped up: the valet, who knew nothing of the orders, had called in a barber to give the beard a quick shave, so that the body could be exhibited properly. What was the chaplain to do in such circumstances? He told off the valet for not calling him sooner; sent away the barber, who was holding the general securely by the nose; and since there was nothing else for it, had the general laid in the coffin as he had found him, soaped and with half a beard, and buried.

Alcaeus, fragment 208

ἀσυννέτημμι τὼν ἀνέμων στάσιν·
τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἔνθεν κῦμα κυλίνδεται,
τὸ δ’ ἔνθεν, ἄμμες δ’ ὂν τὸ μέσσον
νᾶϊ φορήμμεθα σὺν μελαίνᾳ

χείμωνι μόχθεντες μεγάλῳ μάλα·
πὲρ μὲν γὰρ ἄντλος ἰστοπέδαν ἔχει,
λαῖφος δὲ πὰν ζάδηλον ἤδη,
καὶ λάκιδες μέγαλαι κὰτ αὖτο,

χάλαισι δ’ ἄγκυρραι, τὰ δ’ ὀή[ϊα
[                                                            ]
[                                                            ]
τοι πόδες ἀμφότεροι μένο[ισιν

ἐν βιμβλίδεσσι· τοῦτό με καὶ σ[άοι
μόνον· τὰ δ' ἄχματ’ ἐκπεπ[ ]άχμενα
  ]μεν [ ]ρηντ’ ἔπερθα· τὼν[
  ]ενοις [



I am senseless of the winds’ state;
    swells rise here, and here,
and we in our black ship
    go borne in their middle,

distressed, under tempest.
    The mast-mount slops bilgewater,
canvas rips everywhere
    open to light, in great slashes,

anchors drop, the r[udder
    [                                                               ]
[                                                               ]
    catch both feet fast

in the ropes, only this s[aves] me,
    away the cargo carr[
   ]ed above; of the [
    ]are [


Horace, Odes 1.14

O navis, referent in mare te novi
fluctus. o quid agis? fortiter occupa
    portum. nonne vides, ut
        nudum remigio latus

et malus celeri saucius Africo
antemnaeque gemant ac sine funibus
    vix durare carinae
        possint imperiosius

aequor? non tibi sunt integra lintea,
non di, quos iterum pressa voces malo.
    quamvis Pontica pinus,
        silvae filia nobilis,

iactes et genus et nomen inutile:
nil pictis timidus navita puppibus
    fidit. tu, nisi ventis
        debes ludibrium, cave.

nuper sollicitum quae mihi taedium,
nunc desiderium curaque non levis,
    interfusa nitentis
        vites aequora Cycladas.


New waves, O ship,
    will drive you to sea:
O ship! What to do,
    hold strong, seek port;

do you not see your oar-
    stripped sides; that sore hurt
by the southwest gale,
    your yards groan; that unroped,

your sails scarce bear
    the sea’s sway? No whole
canvas is left you, no gods
    to invoke in new straits.

Though pine of Pontus,
    noble woods’ daughter,
you call name and lineage
    in vain: trembling,

the sailor trusts nothing
    in painted sterns.
O ship, lest you turn
    a toy to the winds, beware!

Till late my oppression
    and worry, now my love,
my care not light,
    O ship, shun those waters
that glitter among the Cyclades.

Kafka tries to review Kleist

Das ist ein Anblick, wenn die großen Werke, selbst bei willkürlicher Zerteilung, aus ihrem unzerteilbaren Innern immer wieder leben, dann vielleicht ganz besonders in unsere trüben Augen schlagend. Darum hat jede Einzelausgabe, welche die Aufmerksamkeit ein für allemal an ein Begrenztes hält, ihr tatsächliches Verdienst, gar wenn sie, wie diese Sammlung Kleistscher Anekdoten, eine neue Einheit respektiert und so den Umfang des Kleistschen Werks förmlich vergrößert. Sie vergrößert ihn selbst dann, wenn wir alle diese Anekdoten schon kennen sollten, was aber zur Freude vieler durchaus nicht der Fall sein muß. Der Kenner wird es natürlich erklären können, warum manche dieser Anekdoten in verschiedenen Gesamtausgaben, selbst in der Tempelausgabe, fehlen; der Nichtkenner wird das nicht verstehn, dafür sich aber desto fester an diesen neuen Text halten, den ihm der Verlag Rowohlt in klarem Druck and ernsthafter Ausstattung (besonders das etwas getönte Papier scheint uns passend) für die Kleinigkeit von zwei Mark liefert.

It is indeed a sight to see how the great works, even arbitrarily broken up, continually come back to life from their unbreakable interiors and, it may be, strike our clouded eyes with all the more force. This is the real contribution of those separate editions which fix the attention once and for all within boundaries, especially when such an edition, as with this collection of Kleist’s anecdotes, amounts to a new unity and so positively increases the extent of Kleist’s works. That extent would be increased even if we were already familiar with all of the anecotes, which to our great fortune cannot possibly be the case. The expert will surely be able to explain why many of these anecdotes are missing from the various complete editions, even from the Tempel edition; the non-expert will not understand the explanation, but for that reason will stand all the more by this new text which Verlag Rowohlt offers him, in clear print and sober layout (the slightly tinted paper in particular strikes us as appropriate) for the pittance of two marks.