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on 18 September 2003
David Luke's translation of Faust is currently acknowledged to be the best, both for academic study and pleasurable reading. Personally I found it fascinating and amusing. Perhaps its most pleasurable and impressible achievement is the creation of a great poetic work in English whilst serving the contraints of a translation.
The book contains a vast introduction by the translator, David Luke, that explains the complexity of performing the translation and describes and discusses the themes and ideas in Goethe's play.
There are also comprehensive "explanatory notes" at the back, which unfortunately occasionally stray beyond the explanatory and into Luke's own opinion, which I think should be kept in the introduction. I would have preferred these notes to have remained absolutely factual so as not to cloud the reader's interpretation of the text.
This did not detract much from the highly enjoyable experience of reading the book. Most of my friends baulked when they saw what I was reading, but it's not heavy going at all, as most people seem to think if they haven't read it! Very highly recommended.
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The story of Faust, the academic who sold his soul to regain his youth, has been with us for many years. There have been many versions, not least Christopher Marlowe's version in English literature. It is however, Goethe's version, that has fascinated so many artists and thinkers in modern times: composers like Berlioz, Gounod, Liszt, Mahler, thinkers like Nietzsche and Jung and many others.

Penguin Classics have been giving us Philip Wayne's translation for many years. The translation is good, but having been done in the 1940's, it is now showing it's age, not least in the language which can seem to contemporary tastes a little ponderous. David Constantine is one of the best English poets now writing. He is also probably the leading translator of German poetry. Thus I looked forward to how he would approach the task.

He does not disappoint. What we get is a poetic, Faust that is fresh, vibrant and alive. What's more it's easier to follow the narrative, with some very illuminating notes at the back (the Wayne version had none) on the origins of certain phrases. It's also a good read, the version I would recommend to any one coming to the text for the first time.

Thank you, David. I look forward to see what you have done with Faust, Part II: Pt. 2, which I've just ordered.
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on 30 May 2016
I read this book years ago, and was not enthralled. My feelings have not really changed. It still seems disjointed, and seldom gripped me. The translator states that a poetic translation is essential; his text often is less than poetic. He also states his intention of avoiding language which of an ephemeral nature; he fails to avoid this category. I confess that I have little appetite for Part 2!
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on 4 October 1998
Walter Kaufmann's magnificent translation of Goethe's "Faust" preserves the original poetic qualities of the classic play. He neither compromises the integrity of the work by using shallow 90's-words or mires it in unpleasant, unreadable "ye" and "thou"s. In my opinion, it is the best translation of "Faust" I have come across, and Kaufmann's commentary (being a native German himself) proves that he is an authority on both the idiomatic elements of the original work and the intent of Goethe's style. The only drawback to the book is that most of Part II is excluded; while Pt. II generally is considered to drag on ad nauseum by first-time readers, students of German romanticism miss rich imagery and lush allusions by receiving only a synopsis of the robust scenes of Pt. II. Otherwise, Kaufmann's work is unequaled.
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on 16 January 2012
There are many translations of Goethe's Faust but I would say this one is amongst the best I have come across. It is faithful to the original meaning but adapts well to a more modern world and the English language. The preface is very useful, with good help on how to interpret the text and plenty of relevant information.
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on 17 June 2016
The English translation could with a little more gravitas, but that's made up for by an absorbing and illuminating introduction and some excellent explanatory notes that enrich understanding of the play and appreciation of what Goethe was trying to do with it.
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on 17 November 2012
After reading many books that quoted J W Von Goethe's classic work I felt that it was time to engage with the epic poem in it's entirety.

I must admit I wasn't too sure what to expect, how would or could someone tell a complex story containing many interacting characters in the form of a poem? It is worth reading this book to find not only to that question but to experience a true masterpiece of language and literature based on a German folktale.

The introduction is engaging and explanatory and puts the story and how it is told into context, this is of the utmost importance as without this the story would become confusing.

Expand your engagement with literature and buy this book, you will only grow from reading it.
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on 14 December 2012
After reading the preface and introduction I began to suspect the essence of the work would be lost in translation and as I don't speak German,or have read any other translations,I'm not in a position to argue this point.However the prose is lively enough and contains sufficient insightful treatments into the predicaments of human existence to make it and entertaining read.It seemed to go astray towards the end and it was sometimes difficult to ascertain what was or had happened as the entire work reads as a script.
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on 30 January 1999
While the translator deserves praise in his efforts of tackling a difficult work, the result is average at best. The excision of text, as has already been noted by other reviewers, is the biggest reason to avoid this translation, but I will admit that it is perhaps the most accessible and easily read translation available. For those with a serious interest in Goethe and Faust, I would recommend the Walter Arndt/Cyrus Hamlin critical edition from Norton. I believe that to be a much more accurate rendering of Goethe's exemplary work.
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Much is lost when trying to stick to rhyming. Apparently, the original German was outstanding and its either try to copy that style by keeping a tight rhyming, like Pope's Iliad, or write an English poem with a freer, and crispier edge that may not be as fun, but can get across to the reader the actual meaning.

Anyway David Luke's translation is excellent.
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