Books: The First Great Absurdist

KLEIST: A BIOGRAPHY by Joachim Maass; Farrar, Straus & Giroux 320 pages; $22.50

AN ABYSS DEEP ENOUGH: LETTERS OF HEINRICH VON KLEIST, WITH A SELECTION OF ESSAYS AND ANECDOTES; Dutton; 297pages; $16.95 PLAYS by Heinrich von Kleist; Continuum; 341 pages; $17.50

No writer is more compelling than one who seems modern to later generations. Heinrich von Kleist, the German playwright, story writer and essayist, collected admirers who called him their contemporary for a century and more after his brief lifetime (1777-1811).

Nietzsche could hardly wait to turn 15; a new edition of Kleist was his...

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