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The Sorrows of Young Werther (Classics) Paperback – 30 Mar 1989


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The Sorrows of Young Werther (Classics) + Faust: A Tragedy In Two Parts & The Urfaust (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (30 Mar. 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014044503X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140445039
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 0.9 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 21,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Johann Wolfgang Goethe was born in Frankfurt in 1749. He is best remembered for his great works The Sorrows of Young Werther and Faust, and his part in the 18th century 'Sturm and Drang' movement. He died in 1832. Michael Hulse is an acclaimed literary German translator.

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'This spring,' wrote Christian Kestner in 1772, 'a certain Goethe came here. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Kendall on 1 Dec. 2002
Format: Paperback
We tend to think of our era as unique when we descry the impact that the media has on our young people's behavior. Well the same thing happened 200 years ago when this book was first published. Impressionable young readers who identified so completely with Werther went out and committed suicide by the droves.
Werther is the prototypical Romantic male, who "feels" more deeply than the rest of humanity. Unlike Heathcliffe, who settles on revenge as an answer to his thwarted designs, Werther takes it out on himself. Of course, there's a great deal of self-destruction at work in Heathcliffe's persona too.
I would recommend this to a reader who is just getting to know Goethe. I read it when I was about eighteen and it definitely struck a nerve with me at that time. It made me want to read everything by Goethe I could find in translation.
Read it, and if you like it, as I am sure you will, go on to Goethe's two great Romantic novels, Elective Affinities and Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship. I found in my earlier readings that I never went wrong with Penguin Classics translations. They're normally all top-notch, whether Greek, Latin, French, German, Russian, etc. PS: If you're a young reader, please don't take Werther too much to heart. It's only a novel, ok?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Brownbear101 on 28 July 2010
Format: Paperback
Two true stories woven together so as to provide a tragic love story and a direct insight into Goethe's mind. Simple, poetic, tragic and thoughtful. A journey alongside genius.

When Napoleon met Goethe he is reported to have said, "There is a Man!" Napoleon was a big fan of Goethe and read this book no less than seven times. Perhaps not surprisingly, because its semi-autobiographical nature makes it an almost direct insight into Goethe's genius.

The story is based on two separate but related true stories. First Goethe's own stay in the village of Wetzlar in 1771 when he was 23. He met Charlotte Buff who was engaged to Christian Kestner and seems to have fallen in love with her and possibly her with him, but neither acted on their feelings out of respect and possibly love for Kestner. The second concerns a mutual friend, Wilhelm Jerusalem, who shot himself over his love for Elisabeth Herd, a married woman. Much is known of the actual facts of these two stories and Goethe's synthesis of himself and Jerusalem into the fictional Werther follows the facts remarkably closely so that it seems when he talks about Werther's feelings he is describing his own.

Goethe has that clarity and simplicity of thought that defines genius and he has sufficient self-confidence in his own abilities so as not to need to display his cleverness. Instead he plainly and simply sets out the story and his/Werther's thoughts and emotions about what is happening. He tries to be a fine human being against the tide of his emotions, and there is much to appreciate in his relationships with others and in his observations about the simple pleasures in life.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Chris Sams on 22 Aug. 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The sorrows of young Werther is, in my humble opinion, one of the best stories I have read.

The majority of the narrative is written in the words of Werther himself in the form of letters to his brother Wilhelm and it starts slowly but I would urge the reader to be patient as the story blossoms.

I found myself sympathising with Werther and his unrequieted love for Lotte having been there more than once in my life and feeling the same pain and elation in the same heart beat, the uncertainty and the joy. I found Goethe's text mirroring real life, I later discovered that it is based on his own unrequieted love and so was an out pouring of his feelings.

On the whole I really enjoyed this book and it was my first Goethe and I am looking forward to reading more and would urge anyone who has felt the same pain or has an interest in classic literature to read this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Peter Reeve VINE VOICE on 31 Dec. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Werther was an important and influential novel of the Sturm und Drang period. Goethe was 26 when he wrote it. It was his first novel and brought him instant fame. It is something of a young person's novel, overbrimming with emotional drama. In later life, Goethe distanced himself from it somewhat.

I found the early part too overheated for my taste (a bit too much of a Sturm in a teacup) but Werther's obsessive passion becomes more authentic and compelling later in the story. And, some way through the book, there are very fine descriptive passages. The ending is extraordinary - dark, dramatic, disturbing. It is difficult now to understand the impact the novel had at the time, as it was so perfectly suited to the zeitgeist, so different from our own.

I read the Modern Library Classics edition, translated and introduced by Burton Pike. I have not read other editions, so cannot compare them, but I can tell you that this one is excellent. Werther presents a particular challenge to the English translator, because it includes a sizeable extract from The Songs of Ossian, by James Macpherson, translated into German. So does the translator attempt a translation of Goethe's German version, which is rather more passionate and free-flowing than the original, or is it better to simply revert to the original English version? Pike chooses the latter course, wisely in my opinion, and adds an explanatory footnote. He also discusses the issue in the Introduction.

If you want to get to know Goethe's work (and if you enjoy good literature, you should) then this first novel is a logical place to start, but be assured that his more mature work is far better.
[PeterReeve]
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