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52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading; the mind of the Universal Genius revealed,
This review is from: Conversations of Goethe with Johann Peter Eckermann (Paperback)For those who do not know anything about Goethe at all, 'Conversations' may not be a good place to start - but for those who are a little familiar with Goethe, 'Conversations of Goethe' makes for fascinating reading.
Very rarely do we have the life of a genius so well and closely documented. This book is not a record of formal interviews; it is a record by Eckermann, Goethe's good friend, who took the trouble to write down the great man's words almost every day, it seems. The book reads like a diary of Eckermann's, filled with Goethe - there is one entry for almost every day for a few weeks, then a break, and so on.
Eckermann seems to have written down almost everything he remembered from his conversations - and some of what Goethe said here may be edifyong, some not so much; but all of it is significant for one trying to get an insight into Goethe's mind - how it worked, how he thought, how he did things - right from the grand projects down to the simple pleasures.
One comes away from this book with an "insiders glimpse" of the Goethe's mind and world - and that really helps when reading his works.
The idea of Goethe as the complete, the perfect man, the universal genius - sticks with the reader years after reading this book. We live in an age when the really good things do not matter; Goethe reminds us of all the things that can, and do matter - and those things that can refresh, change, and enliven.
Nietzsche called this "the greatest book in German there is".
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A friend between the covers. . .,
This review is from: Conversations of Goethe with Johann Peter Eckermann (Paperback)I love Goethe's creative works and his scientific theories, but most of all I love this book. I travel with it, look in it for advice and conversation. As an artist Goethe was incomparable; as a scientist he was curious, alive, observant, questioning -- but as a man who lived a life with a conscious intention to make his life a work of his own mind and heart he is the master and that master is found in the pages of this book. When I need a wise friend, I turn here and find, beside the wisdom, a silly person who thought spectacles were an affectation, an attempt on the part of someone to be something he was not. . .
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It should be required reading for artists and biographers.,
This review is from: Conversations of Goethe with Johann Peter Eckermann (Paperback)Here Goethe shares his opinions on drama, poetry, music, painting, philosophy, and prominent figures of the day.
What makes this book so much better than a mere interview is that instead of getting a load of useless answers in response to imbecilic questions, we get impromptu pearls of wisdom, straight from the master, interspersed among stretches of his daily life.
Eckermann is a master biographer here, because he's close enough to the subject to elicit candor, but not so close that he is oblivious to the subject's flaws. Furthermore, he was adept enough to get the old man to speak at length with almost no questioning at all!
I won't say any more, because words just can't do it justice.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Relatively Unknown, Yet Great Book,
This review is from: Conversations of Goethe with Johann Peter Eckermann (Paperback)While in graduate school in Australia I happened in a pub (which is not extraordinary in itself) and got to talking with the bar-tender. It turns out that he was a student at the Univ. of Queensland too and was getting his MA in German. I told him how much I enjoyed Nietzche, who was the focus of his thesis, and eventually we got around to Eckermann's Coversations. I told him it was one of the best books that I had ever read: so quaint and yet probing. The reader sits in the drawing room and hears the most extrodinary discussions. In this way it reminds me of Sherlock Holmes and Watson. It is so civilized that it is almost nostalgic--but far too potent for that due to the genuis involved (Eckermann's mind ain't to shabby either). The newly made friend expressed amazement that an English major happened on this book; he said that I had been the only person outside the German dept that he had met that had ever read the book, or even heard of it (and this in a much more literate country than here). This is truely a shame we agreed. Ease-drop on a better time when scholars were gentleman, and in search of the truth not some PC BS, and were enamored with ideas. Goethe's Maxims is also highly recommended--as Faust and his other better known works. A Western classic, like the subject.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meet the Titan and Wonder,
This review is from: Conversations of Goethe with Johann Peter Eckermann (Paperback)J.P. Eckermann meets J.W. von Goethe, while the Great Poet is in his 70's thought still spry in mind and producing some of the world's greatest poems (West-Eastern Divan) and, of course, Part II of Faust. Eckermann is to Goethe as Boswell was to Dr. Johnson. He chronicles his conversations with the German sage, who in these wondrous pages, reveals his mind-blowing, jaw-dropping multi-disciplinary genius...the likes of which has not been known since his death...and the lack of which may be leading us all to ruin.
It is a delightful book, which unfortunately due to our provincial focus on all things in English, has very limited popular appeal. Nevertheless, I encourage any with an interest in a grander time when men discussed, without ridicule art, architecture, drama, and les belles lettres, to read Eckermann's conversations with Goethe. After learning from Eckermann about this great man, you may consider the motto, that I often invoke...What Would Goethe Do?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book if you... especially if you are a young intellectual.,
This review is from: Conversations of Goethe with Johann Peter Eckermann (Paperback)In this book, Goethe is revealed to be a elder genius imparting his wisdom to a young poet. I highly recommend this book to any thinker.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As much a love story as a biography,
This review is from: Conversations of Goethe with Johann Peter Eckermann (Paperback)There is nothing homoerotic in the account of the relationship between Eckermann and Goethe but the love and admiration the author displays for his subject shines through every one of the beautifully related narratives of their time together. This book is not just an intimate insight into the mind of a poetic genius and genuine polymath, set against fascinating details of the historic events taking place in Europe at that time; it is a portrait of a relationship between a young man and his senior, whom he admires almost without reservation.
The dynamic between them often reveals itself as that of father and son and master and pupil rolled into one but always through Eckermann's wonderfully controlled and matter-of-fact writing style. None the less, his admiration for Goethe and the strength of his attachment are revealed at the end of his account, when he tells of Goethe's death with typical emotional restraint.
Subsequently, he admits that on the following day, he cannot keep from visiting Goethe's house once more and in the presence of his laid out body, weeps openly for the loss of a dear friend.
This is the conclusion of a profoundly civilised book; one that is as moving as it is enlightening and which continues with a deep resonance long after it is read.
11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Goethe is a MAN,
This review is from: Conversations of Goethe with Johann Peter Eckermann (Paperback)Although his writing is extremely important, Goethe made a mark also through his life and philosophy. Goethe has been called "the Olympian" for his wide perspective. This book is a record of conversations Goethe really had in his lifetime. The most famous of these conversations is his with Eckermann, Goethe's secretary throughout his later, mature years.
4.0 out of 5 stars Provides great insights into the last years of Goethe's life,
This review is from: Conversations of Goethe with Johann Peter Eckermann (Paperback)Eckermann's notes in regard to his conversations with Goethe in the last years of his life. The entries are tied to the dates that Eckermann met with Goethe and are scattered in time from 1823 to 1832. The book provides insight into the workings of Goethe's thought and involvement with the theater. I found this book interesting and enjoyed the scattered aphorisms and Goethe's manner of using metaphor and illustrations to make his point.
For those interested in reading "Faust" or "The Sorrows of Young Werther" this book along with Goethe's autobiography provides a good foundation into Goethe's background and thoughts. Goethe still stands as one of the greatest German writers of all time.
The one negative is the lack of continuity between entries. One would have also wished that such a work as this could have been started earlier. The reality is that one can only appreciate what is presented and not become frustrated that much has gone missing.
As noted above, for those interested in Goethe's works I would highly recommend this book.
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Conversations of Goethe with Johann Peter Eckermann by Johann Peter Eckermann (Paperback - August 22, 1998)