Five Great German Short Stories: Funf Deutsche Meistererzahlungen: A Dual Language Book


In the 19th century, in the hands of such writers as Heinrich von Kleist and E. T. A. Hoffmann, the short story established itself  as one of the most expressive and characteristic genres in German literature. Twentieth-century authors such as Arthur Schnitzler, Thomas Mann, and Franz Kafka continued to deepen and strengthen the tradition.
Now five of the finest German short stories — each a well-known pinnacle of the author's art — have been specially chosen for this ...

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In the 19th century, in the hands of such writers as Heinrich von Kleist and E. T. A. Hoffmann, the short story established itself  as one of the most expressive and characteristic genres in German literature. Twentieth-century authors such as Arthur Schnitzler, Thomas Mann, and Franz Kafka continued to deepen and strengthen the tradition.
Now five of the finest German short stories — each a well-known pinnacle of the author's art — have been specially chosen for this dual-language edition. Reprinted here in the order of their original publication, the stories are: Heinrich von Kleist's "The Earthquake in Chile," E. T. A. Hoffmann's "The Sandman," Arthur Schnitzler's "Lieutenant Gustl," Thomas Mann's "Tristan," and Franz Kafka's "The Judgment."
For each selection, the editor has supplied complete literal English translations on facing pages, along with an introduction to each story and a foreword outlining the evolution of the German short-story genre. Any student of German language or literature will welcome this concise anthology — as a superb language-learning aid and as a repository of great short fiction.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780486276199
  • Publisher: Dover Publications
  • Publication date: 7/27/1993
  • Series: Dover Dual Language German Series
  • Edition description: BILINGUAL
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 251,285
  • Product dimensions: 5.33 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

Stanley Appelbaum served for decades as Dover's Editor in Chief until his retirement in 1996. He continues to work as a selector, compiler, editor, and translator of literature in a remarkable range of languages that includes Spanish, Italian, French, German, and Russian.

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Five Great German Short Stories Fünf Deutsche Meistererzählungen

A Dual-Language Book


Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1993 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-27619-9



Heinrich Von Kleist—in his plays, stories and poems, the first great German literary rebel against eighteenth-century rationalism and the aging Goethe's classicism—was born in Frankfurt an der Oder in 1777. The son of a Prussian officer and nobleman, he himself was trained for the army and saw action as a youth, but his preference was for philosophical and scientific studies. He traveled in the German lands and in France and Switzerland, meeting influential literary figures and nurturing boundless ambitions as an author, but remaining unsettled, unattached and subject to nervous fits. His major works were all planned and written within one decade. From 1804 to 1807 he was in government financial service in Berlin and Königsberg (the later Kaliningrad). Between 1808 and 1811 he was an editor of the literary journal Phöbus and the newspaper Berliner Abendblätter. In 1811—his patriotism thwarted by Napoleon's successes, his talents largely unrecognized and his income dried up—he killed himself after shooting an incurably ill female friend. His major plays, including Der zerbrochene Krug (The Broken Pitcher), Penthesilea and Der Prinz von Homburg, were still unproduced, or had been given only very inadequate productions.

"The Earthquake in Chile," inspired by a historical disaster, was probably the earliest written of Kleist's eight stories, the first high point of German short-story writing after the pioneering work of Schiller and Goethe. Written in Königsberg and finished by the fall of 1806, it was first published by the eminent Johann Friedrich Cotta in Stuttgart, in issues of his Morgenblatt für gebildete Stände dating from the 10th to the 15th of September 1807. (Its title in the magazine was "Jeronimo und Josephe. Eine Szene aus dem Erdbeben zu Chili, vom Jahr 1647" [Jerónimo and Josefa. A Scene from the Earthquake in Chile in the Year 1647].) Kleist then included it in the first volume of his Erzählungen, published by Georg Andreas Reimer, Berlin, 1810 (the volume was censored in Vienna for its antiestablishment tendencies). There is no known source for the plot, but Kleist is believed to have incorporated descriptions by Kant and others of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.

As in so many of Kleist's works, the principal characters of "The Earthquake in Chile" are strong-willed individuals, pitted against authority by the urgency of their personal drives and their vision of a better social order. Upheavals in nature and the external world accompany and reflect their own seething minds. Magnanimous thoughts and deeds are powerless against entrenched reactionary beliefs at all levels of society.

Kleist's writing is as volcanic as his subject matter. The narrative progresses with such lapidary rapidity that it almost seems like the précis of a story; note the amount of information conveyed by the opening sentence alone. There are only a couple of seeming pauses for reflective description, but even these chiefly serve to motivate the characters or act as a foil for the human emotions in the fore-ground: the beautiful night in the forest reconciles Jerónimo and Josefa to life and encourages them to plan for the future; the awesome splendor of the church in readiness for the Te Deum celebration provides a telling contrast to the savagery soon to be unleashed.

Also volcanic, from a different point of view, are the slag and scoria of Kleist's style, one of the least polished in the front rank of German literature. His hot haste leads him to awkward repetitions of words, ambiguous placement of dependent clauses and tics of sentence construction: in this brief story, at least eight sentences share the general pattern "scarcely did X occur when Y occurred." But these are forgivable flaws in a style otherwise admirable for clarity and directness of expression, and emulated by such later masters as Kafka.

In the present translation, all Christian names have been regularized into their correct Spanish form (the German original offers a babel of forms), and additional paragraphing has been liberally introduced for convenience of reading and comparing the languages. The German original story is divided into no more than three paragraphs, the second commencing at the words "Als sie erwachten" (page 14), and the third at "Inzwischen war" (page 20).


In St. Jago, der Hauptstadt des Königreichs Chili, stand gerade in dem Augenblicke der großen Erderschütterung vom Jahre 1647, bei welcher viele tausend Menschen ihren Untergang fanden, ein junger, auf ein Verbrechen angeklagter Spanier namens Jeronimo Rugera an einem Pfeiler des Gefängnisses, in welches man ihn eingesperrt hatte, und wollte sich erhenken. Don Henrico Asteron, einer der reichsten Edelleute der Stadt, hatte ihn ohngefähr ein Jahr zuvor aus seinem Hause, wo er als Lehrer angestellt war, entfernt, weil er sich mit Donna Josephe, seiner einzigen Tochter, in einem zärdichen Einverständnis befunden hatte. Eine geheime Bestellung, die dem alten Don, nachdem er die Tochter nachdrücklich gewarnt hatte, durch die hämische Aufmerksamkeit seines stolzen Sohnes verraten worden war, entrüstete ihn dergestalt, daß er sie in dem Karmeliter-Kloster unsrer lieben Frauen vom Berge daselbst unterbrachte. Durch einen glücklichen Zufall hatte Jeronimo hier die Verbindung von neuem anzuknüpfen gewußt und in einer verschwiegenen Nacht den Klostergarten zum Schauplatze seines vollen Glückes gemacht.

Es war am Fronleichnamsfeste, und die feierliche Prozession der Nonnen, welchen die Novizen folgten, nahm eben ihren Anfang, als die unglückliche Josephe bei dem Anklange der Glocken in Mutterwehen auf den Stufen der Kathedrale niedersank. Dieser Vorfall machte außerordentliches Aufsehn; man brachte die junge Sünderin ohne Rücksicht auf ihren Zustand sogleich in ein Gefängnis, und kaum war sie aus den Wochen erstanden, als ihr schon auf Befehl des Erzbischofs der geschärfteste Prozeß gemacht ward.

Man sprach in der Stadt mit einer so großen Erbitterung von diesem Skandal, und die Zungen fielen so scharf über das ganze Kloster her, in welchem er sich zugetragen hatte, daß weder die Fürbitte der Familie Asteron noch auch sogar der Wunsch der Äbtissin selbst, welche das junge Mädchen wegen ihres sonst untadelhaften Betragens liebgewonnen hatte, die Strenge, mit welcher das klösterliche Gesetz sie bedrohte, mildern konnte. Alles, was gesche-hen konnte, war, daß der Feuertod, zu dem sie verurteilt wurde, zur großen Entrüstung der Matronen und Jungfrauen von St. Jago durch einen Machtspruch des Vizekönigs in eine Enthauptung verwandelt ward. Man vermietete in den Straßen, durch welche der Hinrichtungszug gehen sollte, die Fenster, man trug die Dächer der Häuser ab, und die frommen Töchter der Stadt luden ihre Freundinnen ein, um dem Schauspiele, das der göttlichen Rache gegeben wurde, an ihrer schwesterlichen Seite beizuwohnen.

Jeronimo, der inzwischen auch in ein Gefängnis gesetzt worden war, wollte die Besinnung verlieren, als er diese ungeheure Wendung der Dinge erfuhr. Vergebens sann er auf Rettung: überall, wohin ihn auch der Fittich der vermessensten Gedanken trug, stieß er auf Riegel und Mauern, und ein Versuch, die Gitterfenster zu durchfeilen, zog ihm, da er entdeckt ward, eine nur noch engere Einsperrung zu. Er warf sich vor dem Bildnisse der heiligen Mutter Gottes nieder und betete mit unendlicher Inbrunst zu ihr als der einzigen, von der ihm jetzt noch Rettung kommen könnte.

Doch der gefürchtete Tag erschien und mit ihm in seiner Brust die Überzeugung von der völligen Hoffnungslosigkeit seiner Lage. Die Glocken, welche Josephen zum Richtplatze begleiteten, ertönten, und Verzweiflung bemächtigte sich seiner Seele. Das Leben schien ihm verhaßt, und er beschloß, sich durch einen Strick, den ihm der Zufall gelassen hatte, den Tod zu geben. Eben stand er, wie schon gesagt, an einem Wandpfeiler und befestigte den Strick, der ihn dieser jammervollen Welt entreißen sollte, an eine Eisenklammer, die an dem Gesimse derselben eingefugt war, als plötzlich der größte Teil der Stadt mit einem Gekrache, als ob das Firmament einstürzte, versank und alles, was Leben atmete, unter seinen Trümmern begrub.

Jeronimo Rugera war starr vor Entsetzen; und gleich, als ob sein ganzes Bewußtsein zerschmettert worden wäre, hielt er sich jetzt an dem Pfeiler, an welchem er hatte sterben wollen, um nicht umzufallen. Der Boden wankte unter seinen Füßen, alle Wände des Gefängnisses rissen, der ganze Bau neigte sich, nach der Straße zu einzustürzen, und nur der seinem langsamen Fall begegnende Fall des gegenüberstehenden Gebäudes verhinderte durch eine zufällige Wölbung die gänzliche Zubodenstreckung desselben.

Zitternd, mit sträubenden Haaren und Knien, die unter ihm brechen wollten, glitt Jeronimo über den schiefgesenkten Fußboden hinweg der Öffnung zu, die der Zusammenschlag beider Häuser in die vordere Wand des Gefängnisses eingerissen hatte. Kaum befand er sich im Freien, als die ganze schon erschütterte Straße auf eine zweite Bewegung der Erde völlig zusammenfiel. Besinnungslos, wie er sich aus diesem allgemeinen Verderben retten würde, eilte er über Schutt und Gebälk hinweg, indessen der Tod von allen Seiten Angriffe auf ihn machte, nach einem der nächsten Tore der Stadt.

Hier stürzte noch ein Haus zusammen und jagte ihn, die Trümmer weit umherschleudernd, in eine Nebenstraße; hier leckte die Flamme schon, in Dampfwolken blitzend, aus allen Giebeln und trieb ihn schreckenvoll in eine andere; hier wälzte sich, aus seinem Gestade gehoben, der Mapochofluß an ihn heran und riß ihn brüllend in eine dritte. Hier lag ein Haufen Erschlagener, hier ächzte noch eine Stimme unter dem Schutte, hier schrien Leute von brennenden Dächern herab, hier kämpften Menschen und Tiere mit den Wellen, hier war ein mutiger Retter bemüht, zu helfen; hier stand ein anderer, bleich wie der Tod, und streckte sprachlos zitternde Hände zum Himmel.

Als Jeronimo das Tor erreicht und einen Hügel jenseits desselben bestiegen hatte, sank er ohnmächtig auf demselben nieder. Er mochte wohl eine Viertelstunde in der tiefsten Bewußtlosigkeit gelegen haben, als er endlich wieder erwachte und sich mit nach der Stadt gekehrtem Rücken halb auf dem Erdboden erhob. Er befühlte sich Stirn und Brust, unwissend, was er aus seinem Zustande machen sollte, und ein unsägliches Wonnegefühl ergriff ihn, als ein Westwind vom Meere her sein wiederkehrendes Leben anwehte, und sein Auge sich nach allen Richtungen über die blühende Gegend von St. Jago hinwandte. Nur die verstörten Menschenhaufen, die sich überall blicken ließen, beklemmten sein Herz; er begriff nicht, was ihn und sie hierhergeführt haben konnte, und erst, da er sich umkehrte und die Stadt hinter sich versunken sah, erinnerte er sich des schrecklichen Augenblicks, den er erlebt hatte. Er senkte sich so tief, daß seine Stirn den Boden berührte, Gott für seine wunderbare Errettung zu danken; und gleich, als ob der eine entsetzliche Eindruck, der sich seinem Gemüt eingeprägt hatte, alle früheren daraus verdrängt hätte, weinte er vor Lust, daß er sich des lieblichen Lebens voll bunter Erscheinungen noch erfreue.


In Santiago, the capital of the kingdom of Chile, at the very moment of the great earthquake of the year 1647, in which many thousands of people perished, a young Spaniard accused of a crime, Jerónimo Rugera by name, was standing by a pillar of the prison in which he had been confined and was about to hang himself. About a year previously, Don Enrique Asterón, one of the richest noblemen in the city, had dismissed him from his house, where he was employed as a tutor, because Jerónimo and Doña Josefa, Asterón's only daughter, had fallen in love. A secret tryst, which had been revealed to the old Don—after he had expressly warned his daughter—by the malicious vigilance of his haughty son, so infuriated him that he placed her in the Carmelite convent of Our Lady of the Mountain in that city. Here, through a lucky accident, Jerónimo had been able to resume the relationship and, one night, had secretly made the convent garden the scene of his highest bliss.

It was Corpus Christi day, and the solemn procession of the nuns, whom the novices followed, was just setting out when the unfortunate Josefa sank down on the cathedral steps in labor pains as the bells began to ring. This incident created an unusual sensation; the young sinner, with no regard to her condition, was immediately thrown in prison, and scarcely had she arisen from childbed when, by order of the archbishop, she was subjected to the most harrowing trial.

This scandal was discussed in the city with so much animosity, and people's tongues dealt so harshly with the entire convent in which it had taken place, that neither the intercession of the Asterón family nor even the request of the abbess herself—who had grown fond of the young girl because of her otherwise irreproachable conduct—was able to palliate the severity with which the monastic laws threatened her. All that could be done was to have the death by fire, to which she had been condemned, commuted to beheading by decree of the viceroy, much to the indignation of the matrons and maidens of Santiago. In the streets along which the execution procession would pass, windows were rented, the roofs of the houses were leveled, and the pious daughters of the city invited their girl friends to attend the spectacle offered to divine vengeance at their sisterly side.

Jerónimo, who meanwhile had also been clapped in prison, thought he would go out of his mind when he heard about this horrible turn of events. In vain did he ponder ways of rescuing her: wherever the wings of even the most unbridled notions carried him, he came up against bolts and walls; and an attempt to file through the window grating only gained him a still more cramped dungeon when he was discovered. He flung himself down before the image of the Mother of God, and prayed to her with tremendous ardor, believing her to be the only one from whom salvation could still come.

But the dreaded day arrived, and with it, in his heart, a conviction of the total hopelessness of his situation. The bells that accompanied Josefa to her place of execution rang out, and despair took hold of his soul. Life seemed hateful to him, and he decided to kill himself with a rope that had been left to him by chance. He was just standing, as mentioned above, by a wall pillar and was securing the rope that was to snatch him from this world of sorrow to an iron clamp that was inserted into the pillar molding, when suddenly the greater part of the city sank with a roar as if the sky were falling, and buried all living things beneath its ruins.

Jerónimo Rugera was rigid with terror; and, as if all his presence of mind had been wiped out, he now held on to the pillar on which he had intended to die, in order not to fall over. The ground shook beneath his feet, all the walls of the prison were cleft, the whole structure threatened to collapse onto the street, and only the subsidence of the building opposite, occurring at the same time as the prison was slowiy falling apart, prevented its complete leveling with the ground by creating an accidental supporting vault.

Trembling, his hair on end, and with knees about to buckle under him, Jerónimo slid across the now tilted floor toward the opening that the collision of the two buildings had torn in the front wall of the prison. Scarcely was he out in the open when a second earth tremor caused the entire street, already badly shaken, to cave in altogether. Unable to think how he could escape from this universal destruction, he hastened away over debris and timbers toward one of the nearest city gates, while death attacked him from all sides.

Here yet another house collapsed and, flinging its ruins far and wide, forced him into a side street; here flames were already shooting out of every gable, flashing in clouds of smoke, driving him in terror into another street; here the Mapocho River, shifting from its bed, rolled toward him, sweeping him with a roar into a third street. Here lay a heap of corpses, here a voice was still groaning beneath the debris, here people were shouting from burning rooftops, here humans and animals were struggling with the waves, here a courageous rescuer was making an effort to help; here stood another man, pale as death, speechlessly extending his trembling hands toward heaven.

When Jerónimo reached the gate and had ascended a hill outside it, he fell down there in a faint. He had probably lain there completely unconscious for a quarter of an hour when he finally awoke again and partly raised himself from the ground, his back turned toward the city. He felt his forehead and chest, not knowing what to make of his condition, and an immense feeling of bliss came over him when a westerly breeze from the sea quickened his recovering senses, and his eyes roved in all directions over the flourishing countryside of Santiago. Only the clusters of agitated people that were everywhere to be seen saddened his heart; he could not comprehend what had brought him and them to this place, and only when he turned around and saw the city in ruins behind him, did he recall the fearful moment he had lived through. He bowed his head so low that his forehead touched the ground, in order to thank God for his miraculous rescue; and, as if the one terrible impression that had been stamped on his mind had driven all earlier ones from it, he wept for happiness because he still enjoyed the charms of life with all its manifold phenomena.


Excerpted from Five Great German Short Stories Fünf Deutsche Meistererzählungen by STANLEY APPELBAUM. Copyright © 1993 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

  Das Erdbeben in Chili
  The Earthquake in Chile
E. T. A. HOFFMANN (1776-1822)
  Der Sandmann
  The Sandman
  Leutnant Gustl
  Lieutenant Gustl
THOMAS MANN (1875-1955)
FRANZ KAFKA (1883-1924)
  Das Urteil
  The Judgment

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