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on 22 June 2017
While this is surprisingly easy to read given when it was first written, probably thanks to the fact that the story is told through letters between friends rather than narration as things happen giving Goethe the chance to write in a far less formal fashion. The events take place over the course of a year or so and follow Werther as he falls desperately in love with Charlotte, who, of course, is engaged to another with no intention of changing her mind. This devastates Werther, who finds himself increasingly unable to cope and ends up taking extreme measures. While I did enjoy the style of this and the way each of the characters was portrayed, I did just want to grab Werther and give him a damn good shake. His complete loss of perspective was charming at first but quickly grew tiresome as he re-arranged his entire life because of his obsessive love. A very interesting read which is surprisingly dark and disturbing.
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VINE VOICEon 31 December 2012
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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HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 14 August 2016
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote with this probably one of the world’s most notorious novels, which since first publication has been responsible for a certain way of thinking. Hugely influential on the Romantic Movement, it is easy to see why. This only took about six weeks to write, but has been loved ever since it first appeared, and I must admit that I have read this many times.

Set out mainly in the style of letters, but not completely an epistolary novel we hear from Werther here, and how he falls in love with a certain Charlotte. We read of what happens, as Charlotte is betrothed to Albert. This short novel catapulted Goethe to the heights of celebrity, and it is known that as such there was a sort of cult that was created by this book and the tragedy that ensues, and the cult was not just in the tragedy, but in dress and other merchandise, in many ways like we saw in this country with the publication of ‘Pamela’.

Written in the style of a Strum und Drang, this is what helped to give rise to Romanticism and is still an interesting read. Because of what ultimately happens here we can still see this way of thought going on today, and although possibly such events did and do happen in real life it has now become a part of a woman’s fantasy to think that what happens is quite natural, although it may not be.

This book I have always personally loved, but I do know quite a few people who hate this, so please be aware of this if you haven’t read this before. In all though at times we all need a bit of tragedy and this book should help fulfil your requirements.
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on 28 July 2010
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. The reader is left with the strong impression that Goethe would have been a good and interesting friend; and the fact of his having a powerful and creative mind would never have interfered with that position.

As Werther falls further in love with Charlotte his situation becomes hopeless and, like Jerusalem, he decides to shoot himself using Albert's (Christian's) guns. The ending is gory and ghastly but, in Werther's mind, glorious because in death he will get to wait for Charlotte who he is certain loves him and not Albert.

The book was a sensation on publication and Werther mania swept Europe, including guided tours of Wetzlar and Jerusalem's grave. Suicide was said to have become a fashion amongst the young and they adopted Werther's (Jerusalem's) trademark dress of blue frock-coat, buff leather waistcoat and breeches.

For modern readers it is a remarkable and poignant love story, but also a chance to spend some hours in the company of a great and gentle mind.
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on 17 November 2011
This book contains the novel in the title, plus a short story called "Novella" here, although I believe it has a different name (based on my recollection of "Conversations with Goethe") in other places. There is also a foreword by W.H. Auden that I felt was way off the mark.
Werther is a well-written, tragic love story, but it has its flaws. One can see that he was very young when he wrote this, but it is easy to be critical, and despite his youth there are many great insights into the human psyche. I didn't like the protagonist very much, but that was more due to his constant "weeping" and over-sensitive nature than to his actions. He falls in love with an "angel", and is literally destroyed by it. I think it is difficult not to sympathize with such a case, which is most likely why it became so popular, but the passion with which the protagonist expresses himself is also very eloquent and poetic. I think the author would have made quite a few changes if he had gone back to it later in life, because there are several incongruities and other things that just didn't feel properly edited. But as I said, it is easy to be critical, and this is well worth reading.
"Novella" is a very strange short story, set in medieval(?) times, about a princess, a fire and an escaped lion, among other things. It was written not long before Goethe's death, and has absolutely nothing in common with Werther. It seems to be a parable, although I'm not sure what it is supposed to represent exactly, and it also seems to be deeply religious. It creates quite a striking scene in any case, and is also well worth reading, but I'm still not sure (after reading it for the third time) whether I like it or not.
I suppose this is a good place to start with Goethe, if you haven't read anything else by him, but I don't feel that either Werther or Novella is representative for his style.
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on 22 August 2009
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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HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 13 August 2016
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote with this probably one of the world’s most notorious novels, which since first publication has been responsible for a certain way of thinking. Hugely influential on the Romantic Movement, it is easy to see why. This only took about six weeks to write, but has been loved ever since it first appeared, and I must admit that I have read this many times.

Set out mainly in the style of letters, but not completely an epistolary novel we hear from Werther here, and how he falls in love with a certain Charlotte. We read of what happens, as Charlotte is betrothed to Albert. This short novel catapulted Goethe to the heights of celebrity, and it is known that as such there was a sort of cult that was created by this book and the tragedy that ensues, and the cult was not just in the tragedy, but in dress and other merchandise, in many ways like we saw in this country with the publication of ‘Pamela’.

Written in the style of a Strum und Drang, this is what helped to give rise to Romanticism and is still an interesting read. Because of what ultimately happens here we can still see this way of thought going on today, and although possibly such events did and do happen in real life it has now become a part of a woman’s fantasy to think that what happens is quite natural, although it may not be.

This book I have always personally loved, but I do know quite a few people who hate this, so please be aware of this if you haven’t read this before. In all though at times we all need a bit of tragedy and this book should help fulfil your requirements.
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on 1 December 2002
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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on 27 August 2012
I would not purchase this item, even for such a small amount of money.
You can not read one page without having to interpret many occasions of 2 or 3 words that have been joined together.
This is definitely faulty, but the classic itself is wonderful. Buy a better copy and enjoy.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 13 August 2016
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote with this probably one of the world’s most notorious novels, which since first publication has been responsible for a certain way of thinking. Hugely influential on the Romantic Movement, it is easy to see why. This only took about six weeks to write, but has been loved ever since it first appeared, and I must admit that I have read this many times.

Set out mainly in the style of letters, but not completely an epistolary novel we hear from Werther here, and how he falls in love with a certain Charlotte. We read of what happens, as Charlotte is betrothed to Albert. This short novel catapulted Goethe to the heights of celebrity, and it is known that as such there was a sort of cult that was created by this book and the tragedy that ensues, and the cult was not just in the tragedy, but in dress and other merchandise, in many ways like we saw in this country with the publication of ‘Pamela’.

Written in the style of a Strum und Drang, this is what helped to give rise to Romanticism and is still an interesting read. Because of what ultimately happens here we can still see this way of thought going on today, and although possibly such events did and do happen in real life it has now become a part of a woman’s fantasy to think that what happens is quite natural, although it may not be.

This book I have always personally loved, but I do know quite a few people who hate this, so please be aware of this if you haven’t read this before. In all though at times we all need a bit of tragedy and this book should help fulfil your requirements.
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