German writer, born in Frankfurt an der Oder in 1777 and died in the small lake of Wann, near Potsdam, in 1811.
He belonged to a family of Prussian nobility; his grandfather was a known friend of Lessing and poet Ewald Christian von Kleist (1715-1759). After the death of his father in 1788, Kleist was educated at a boarding school in Berlin. At fifteen, he enlisted in the army, abandoned in 1799. At the University of his native city, he began to study physics and mathematics. At the beginning of the year 1800 pledged with Wilhelmine von Zenge, the daughter of the head of the local garrison, and in summer of the same year interrupted studies and tried entering the Prussian civil service, but he suffered an acute crisis, which no doubt contributed the study of the philosophy of I. Kant, after which undertook various journeys throughout Europe.
A stay in Thun (Switzerland) gave him the opportunity of friendship with H.D. Zschokke and the son of Ch. M. Wieland, Ludwig, which gave him the impetus to embark on the path of literature. After his return to Potsdam he began working in 1804 in the Finance Department, and then in the direction of finance in Königsberg. Disease and chaos produced by the Napoleonic wars contributed to the failure of this latest attempt to bring a regular and conventional life. In 1807, when he went to Berlin, he was taken prisoner by the French and led to the strong Joux in the Jura mountains, and later to the camp de Châlons-sur-Marne. Following the signing of the peace of Tilsit in the same year it was able to return to Berlin.
But not in Berlin but in Dresden, where he found a pleasant welcome by the circle of writers and illustrated residing there. The time that is spent in this city was without doubt the most productive of his life: in addition to co-edit with Adam Müller the literary journal Phöbus ('Phoebus'), wrote several dramas (Penthesilea, Penthesilea, 1808;) Das Käthchen von Heilbronn oder Die Feuerprobe, the small Catherine de Heilbronn or fire proof, 1821; Die Hermannschlacht, the battle of Hermann, 1826), stories and poems. Their exalted patriotism led him in 1809 to the stage of the war between Austria and France, and after the signing of the peace of Vienna, back to Berlin, where he founded the newspaper Berliner Abendblätter ('the evening Berlin'), a journalistic company of huge success that there was to be finished removing the State with the collaboration of the Prussian reformers their financing.
Despite the success of his works of theatre and their narrations, Kleist lived with economic difficulties and some insulation. In 1811 he met Henriette Vogel, who locked a great friendship. Both committed suicide together, after having planned for a long time.
While Kleist moved in the circle of the romantic writers of Berlin, it is difficult to fit his literary within this movement, as their aesthetic conceptions and their socio-political reflections reveal a clear critical attitude with regard to this literary movement. In its narrations in a radical way romantic identity problems, develops to such an extent that the desired integration with the nature, the history or the art fails to take place ever. His style and the language used are also a clear example of his unconventional stance, a reaction of a subversive nature against established forms, as irony, the puns and double meanings as well as the numerous paradoxes contribute to the use of a syntax that often makes it difficult to understand. Many of his works have been pursued to cinema in the 1970s. His best known stories include Michael Kohlhaas (1810), Die Marquise von O. (the marquise of o., 1807), Das Erdbeben in Chili (the earthquake in Chile, 1807), Die Verlobung in St. Domingo (commitment of Santo Domingo, 1810) and Die heilige Cäcilie (Santa Cecilia, 1810); among the dramas Amphitryon (host, 1807), Der zerbrochen Krug (the broken jug, 1808) and Prinz Friedrich von Homburg (the Prince Friedrich von Homburg, 1811).