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Goethe  By  cover art

Goethe

By: Rüdiger Safranksi,David Dollenmayer - translator
Narrated by: James Anderson Foster
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Publisher's Summary

This sterling biography of Germany's greatest writer presents Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as if we are seeing him for the first time.

The work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe has reverberated through two and a half centuries, altering the course of literature in ways both grand and intimate. No other writer so completely captivated the intellectual life of late 18th- and early 19th-century Europe, putting into language the anxieties and ambitions of a civilization on the cusp of modernity. A literary celebrity by the age of 25, Goethe, who was born in Frankfurt in 1749, attracted the adulation and respect of the greatest scientists, politicians, composers, and philosophers of his day. Schoolboys dressed like his fictional characters. Napoleon read his first novel obsessively. He was an astoundingly prolific writer, a master of many genres, from poetry to scientific treatises, from novels like the tragic Sorrows of Young Werther to dramatic works like Faust. Indeed, Goethe's unparalleled literary output would come to define the Romantic age.

Rüdiger Safranski's Goethe: Life as a Work of Art is the first definitive biography in a generation to tell the larger-than-life story of the writer considered to be the Shakespeare of German literature. Drawing upon the trove of letters, diaries, and notebooks Goethe left behind, as well as correspondence and criticism from Goethe's contemporaries, Safranski weaves a rich tale of Europe in the throes of revolution and of the man whose ideas heralded a new era.

Safranski's monumental biography is a careful survey of Goethe's wide-ranging genius. Beyond his incredible literary gifts, Goethe was intensely interested in natural science and took seriously his official post as a statesman, working tirelessly to ensure that the working poor received wages and daily bread. With grace and nuance, Safranski crafts a portrait of Goethe's inner life that illuminates both his written work and the turmoil and triumphs of his era. Reading Goethe affords not simply an encounter with a literary virtuoso but an opportunity to develop a deeper appreciation of the human condition.

Goethe was writing in the midst of a dramatic and bloody time for Europe: The revolutions in France and America overturned the old regimes and introduced new ways of thinking about the world. Set against this backdrop, Goethe's life and work serve as an essential touchstone for the birth of the modern age. But as Safranski ultimately reveals, Goethe's greatest creation was not only his literary masterpieces but his very life.

©2013 Carl Hanser Verlag Müchen; translation copyright 2017 by David Dollenmayer (P)2018 Tantor

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Academic

This is a heavy tome about a complex individual, geared toward the academic community over general readership. Monotonous narration did not lighten matters.

13 people found this helpful

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Erste Klasse

Superb account which I wish I’d read when majoring in German at U of Dayton❗️So remarkable his English translations of Goethe’s poems that they appeared to have been originally written in English. I always admired him. Now I have more motivations to do so👍

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To many unspoken important details left out

Goethe's involvement with secret societies completely missing from biography. Instead long discussion of his feelings.

3 people found this helpful

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A litterary giant

Another well made book, another great biography and life.

Goethe's life story has been a fascinating read. He is said to be the INFJ personality type, and we would share this trait in that case. If that however counts for much, I cannot say, but I do sense that the man has struggled with something akin to bipolar disorder, or another affliction of the sort - throughout his life. And this is a common experience in the INFJ condition. He certainly dances with melancholy and the sublime intermittantly

I take with me a plethora of intruiging thoughts and quotes from this book, to help me in my own work as I strive toward my own theories. After all, the man is a litterary "genius".

I am also greatly inspired to read the mans written works, as they are portrayed in the book quite interestingly. No doubt they contain within them some imeasurable value.

For anyone interested in the human experience, and to learn about all sides of it from different parts of history, I recommend this biography.

Vertchu

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Comprehensive

This is an excellent biography and introduction to the philosophy and literary works of Goethe. It covers his whole life in considerable detail, making extensive quotations from his letters and journals. It is based on original research.

Safranksi does a good job also of summarizing the major philosophical themes and personal-historical context of Goethe's individual works—especially The Sorrows of Young Werther, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, The Roman Elegies, Hermann and Dorothea, and Faust—as well as the evolution of Goethe's overall philosophical thought.

I approached this book with very little prior knowledge of Goethe, but with a fair amount of background knowledge on philosophy and the trends in philosophy in the late 18th and early 19th century. This book's breadth, depth, and extensive quotations from the historical subject himself made the book accessible for a non-expert in Goethe like myself without ever feeling pedantic. Some background knowledge of Enlightenment philosophy is probably a good idea before reading this book, however. Nadler's "A Book Forged in Hell" (about Baruch Spinoza) would be helpful background. As Goethe was heavily influenced by Spinoza's thought, it would help considerably to have some background knowledge of Spinoza before reading this book.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-17-22

excellent, detailed biography of goethe

an excellent, engaging book which looks at Goethe's life and shows how it influenced his work. maybe not the most penetrating of biographies, but very enjoyable. the narration is perfect for it