Monday, August 29, 2011

Art of the Novella Challenge: The Duel, by Heinrich von Kleist

Melville House just introduced a mini-series of books into their Art of Novella series; The Duel is a series of five novellas bearing that title by different authors. I read Heinrich von Kleist's Duel, originally published in 1810.
Von Kleist's Duel tells the story of German nobility caught up in a scandal. Littegarde, a beautiful noblewoman, is accused by Count Rotbart of having been his mistress. Rotbart himself is accused of plotting to kill her husband, his brother. His accusation of her is his alibi. Meanwhile, Littegarde's sweetheart, Sir Friedrich, leaps to her defense and challenges Rotbart to a duel and putting Littegarde's honor in the hands of God. If Friedrich wins, Littegarde will have been judged innocent by God; if he loses, she will be judged guilty and both Friedrich and Littegarde will die.

The Duel is a very entertaining and suspenseful read. The idea of divine justice- that God's will will be revealed in the outcome of an Earthly contest- is a great premise for a tale of courtly intrigues. The story reads a little bit like a late-eighteenth-century soap opera. The novella is one of the shortest in the series at a mere 50 pages; however, The Duel is more than its 50 pages. It's what Melville House is calling a Hybrid book. A QR code at the end gives readers access to 133 pages of content on a range of electronic devices. Bonus material for The Duel includes excerpts of Ivanhoe, selections from The History of Dueling by J.G. Milligen, Johann Ludwig Uhland's poem "The Fatal Tournament," Don Quixote, and more. It's like a mini-course on the subject, and it's yours for the taking with the book!

This is the fifth book I've read for the Art of the Novella Challenge. One more to go and I'm at my goal of 6!

Links to my other Art of the Novella reviews:
The Illusion of Return, by Samir El-Youssef
The North of God, by Steve Stern
Benito Cereno, by Herman Melville
Stempenyu: A Jewish Romance, by Sholem Aleichem

The Challenge is hosted by Frances of Nonsuchbook. Visit- and shop- from Melville House here.


Anonymous said...

Very cool! I've only just heard about this challenge, so late in the year. I think I might jump on board.

bermudaonion said...

It sounds like there's a lot going on in those 50 pages!

Zibilee said...

It sounds like all the add-on attractions with this book are very interesting. I have never read an interactive book before, and am rather curious about the experience.

Audra said...

I'm totally drooling over this one -- the premise plus the extras -- yum!!

Kathleen said...

It sounds like there is a lot of riches to mine in these 50 short pages! Glad you are enjoying the challenge.