a libris book
The Thief and other stories
Translated from the German by Susan Bennett
The tales that Heym wrote in the last year of his life, the most powerful in German literature since Kleist, have a strong gothic flavour and prefigure the great era of the Expressionist film. An ageing, Apocalypsecrazed dropout who sees it as his God-given mission to steal and cut up the Mona Lisa, a sweet moment of memory in a corpse lying opened for autopsy, a released maniac who journeys homeward to murder his wife, the ghastly fate of a crew marooned off New Guinea – the disaffected young writer’s compulsive relationship with his material is reflected in the mesmeric, spellbinding character of these stories, which partake of the violent imagery of paintings of the time. On publication they were compared to the tales of Edgar Allan Poe and the prose pieces of Baudelaire. In the German-speaking world they have been acclaimed ever since for their power and formal beauty; they deserve to be far better known to the English-speaking reader.
These translations, the only ones in English, first published in 1994, are now distributed by Angel Classics.
‘All these stories portray humans in extremis… studies in madness, isolation and depravity, as well as essays in sickness, pestilence and destruction . . . All this is presented in Heym’s inimitable style, which combines cool observation with the most striking, lurid imagery. The translation is superb throughout.’ – Choice
GEORG HEYM (1887–1912), the son of a Prussian lawyer in the government prosecution service, unwillingly studied law and became a civil servant. His short life was an unceasing revolt against the society into which he was born. He was taken up by a Berlin bohemian literary group in which he flourished until his death. He is best known as one of the great German modernist poets. His tales were published by Rowohlt in 1913.