Two friends meet in the park, and, because it’s early 19th Century Germany, they immediately launch into philosophical chat. The conversation, which is really a sequence of anecdotes, is about the idea of grace: a condition found, according to one protagonist, not in humans per se but in human surrogates – statues, animals, puppets. What emerges is a kind of horror story about human consciousness, which is of course not about early 19th century Germany at all, but about right now, whenever you happen to be reading it.
First published in German in The Berliner Abendblätter, December 1810 and available online here. Collected in Selected Writings, Hackett, 2004, in a translation by David Constantine