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Overview

One of the towering figures of world literature, Goethe has never held quite as prominent a place in the English-speaking world as he deserves. This collection of his four major works, together with a selection of his finest letters and poems, shows that he is not only one of the very greatest European writers: he is also accessible, entertaining, and contemporary.

The Sorrows of Young Werther is a story of self-destructive love that made its author a celebrity overnight at the ...

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Overview

One of the towering figures of world literature, Goethe has never held quite as prominent a place in the English-speaking world as he deserves. This collection of his four major works, together with a selection of his finest letters and poems, shows that he is not only one of the very greatest European writers: he is also accessible, entertaining, and contemporary.

The Sorrows of Young Werther is a story of self-destructive love that made its author a celebrity overnight at the age of twenty-five. Its exploration of the conflicts between ideas and feelings, between circumstance and desire, continues in his controversial novel probing the institution of marriage, Elective Affinities. The cosmic drama of Faust goes far beyond the realism of the novels in a poetic exploration of good and evil, while Italian Journey, written in the author’s old age, recalls his youth in Italy and the impact of Mediterranean culture on a young northerner.

Translators include W. H. Auden, Louise Bogan, David Constantine, Barker Fairley, and Elizabeth Mayer

(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Goethe’s greatness is singular: it is difficult to think of any parallel to his achievement . . . At every stage of a long and inwardly turbulent life he rediscovered, or reinvented, himself through his writing, and yet he never significantly repeated himself. For each of the ages of man, which he experienced in his own person, he found a new poetry.”
—from the Introduction by Nicholas Boyle
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375410444
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/28/2000
  • Pages: 1248
  • Sales rank: 528,828
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 2.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Before he was thirty, Goethe had proven himself a master of the novel, the drama, and lyric poetry. But even more impressive than his versatility was his unwillingness ever to settle into a single style or approach; whenever he used a literary form, he made of it something new.

Born in 1749 to a well-to-do family in Frankfurt, he was sent to Strasbourg to earn a law degree. There, he met the poet-philosopher Herder, discovered Shakespeare, and began to write poetry. His play Götz von Berlichingen (1773) made him famous throughout Germany. He was invited to the court of the duke of Sachsen-Weimar, where he quickly became a cabinet minister. In 1774 his novel of Romantic melancholy, The Sorrows of a Young Werther, electrified all of Europe. Soon as he was at work on the first version of his Faust, which would finally appear as a fragment in 1790.

In the 1780s Goethe visited England and immersed himself in classical poetry. The next decade saw the appearance of Wihelm Meister's Apprenticeship, his novel of a young artist education, and a wealth of poetry and criticism. He returned to the Faust material around the turn of the century and completed Part 1 in 1808.

The later years of his life were devoted to a bewildering array of pursuits: research in botany and in a theory of colors, a novel (Elective Affinities), the evocative poems of the West-Easters Divan, and his great autobiography, Poetry and Truth. In his eighties he prepared a forty-volume edition of his works; the forty-first volume, published after his death in 1832, was the send part of Faust.

Goethe's wide-ranging mind could never be confined to one form or one philosophy. When asked for the theme of his masterwork, Faust, he could only say. “From heaven through all the world to hell”; his subject was nothing smaller.

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