“Von der Überlegung”: Of Wrestling and (Not) Thinking

  • John Zilcosky University of Toronto


"an understudied short Kleist piece...entitled “Von der Überlegung” (“On Reflection” or “On Thinking Things Over”) and subtitled “Eine Paradoxe” (“A Paradox”) makes the point most powerfully and succinctly, in a total of eight sentences, through the figure of the athlete-specifically, the wrestler. Kleist’s narrator begins by claiming that people wrongly “celebrate the usefulness of thinking things over to the four corners of the globe”...and announces that he is planning to present the following counter-argument to his son: “If thinking things over-Überlegung-comes into play prior to an act, or in the very moment of decision, it seems only to confuse, to obstruct and to repress the power to act, which flows from the glorious wellspring of our feelings”....This father-narrator then introduces his only example: the wrestler, who, the father insists, will lose if he thinks too much before or during a match."