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"Excellent translation."--Arthur A. Moonfield, California State University "An excellent translation!"--Arthur A. Moorefield, California State University "We come to this volume with high expectations and the reward is there. There is scarcely a page without the felicities and surprises that only a poet can spring."--Partisan Review --This text refers to the
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Vainly in the day time labored, pick and shovel, clink and strike." Goethe worked on Faust for much of his career, but composed some of the best of Part II in a time of life when most are in their rocking chairs or in the intensive care ward of the local nursing home. Goethe in his late seventies and early eighties would rise in the early dawn and compose some of the best poetry written. "I would elevate my mind to a kind of productivity which brought all this forth, in a full state of consciousness and which pleases me still, even though perhaps I could never swim again in such a river." It has been said that German poetry is difficult to translate or untranslatable, and this seems true with some translations of Faust, but the Norton contains a superb effort by Walter Arndt which appears always so on the mark that one suspects Arndt actually embellishes the German, but, rather than quibble over accuracy, it is all so good you will hardly care. Goethe builds upon the medieval Faust legend as a skeleton for his own writing in epic-poem style with various meter fashioned to fit the subject. Faust, weary of the ways of the world (one can almost hear the 60s hippy) embarks on a journey of self-discovery, skirt chasing and empire building finally ending in his 100th year in the ultimate trip, with a little help from his friend, Goethe. This composition is remarkable in innumerable ways. One can use a thesaurus of superlatives: wonderful imagery, perfect choice of words, peerless imagination, beautiful poetry, a unity to the whole which is memorable, as well as numerous wonderful scenes and lines, and always an intelligence that seems to absorb and understand everything. Of course, one can differ with Goethe philosophically.Read more ›
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I have little to say about the play itself. Many consider Goethe the greatest German writer and Faust his masterwork. 300 years old and we are still reading and learning from it. It is an excellent read.
I am inspired to write this review because of Walter Kaufmann's excellent and (to read reviews) misunderstood translation. Kauffman's intentions are stated clearly in his introduction. Meter and rhyme are preserved as much as possible, and all the text that is translated (all of part one and sections of part two) is done exactingly without one line added or removed. Kaufmann's goal was to 1> re-create the rhythmic drive of Goethe's wit, 2> create a *readable* translation not just for the scholar but for the reader as well, 3> provide an exacting translation that avoids the embellishments of prior translations.
It should go without saying that any translation that doubles the length of a speech or replaces subtle humor with flowery speech is a poor one.
Kaufmann, unlike many other translators, has both the knowledge of German and an appreciation for cultural context to reach all of those goals. While this translation might not be the best for scholars (since much of Part Two is trimmed), it is the best translation for *readers*.
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A lot of people (not only Germans) consider German literature as the finest in the world. Although I don't completely agree, I willingly admit it has its "stars" that could reach the level of World Literature. I offer just a few names of such novelists or playwrights: Grimmelshausen, Lessing, Schiller, Thomas Mann, Grass, Boll, and of course Johann Wolfgang Goethe with his famous play in two parts "Faust". The play is based on a true story of a medieval scientist (alchimist) whose methods of research were considered magic. The story was so much exagerated by every generation that in 1587, as the original "Faustus" book appeared, it maintained that its primary character Faust has established an alliance with the devil himself, that it was the absolute evil that helped him making his discoveries. The Englishman Christopher Marlowe was the first to write a play based on "The tragical History of Doctor Faustus". In the 18th century, the young Goethe picked up the subject of Faust and began transforming it into a play that would eventually become the flag of the entire German literature. "Faust 1" was published for the first time in 1805 with great success. In 1832, just after the author's death, the continuation of the tragedy appeared. Since "Faust 2" didn't have any dramatical plot, it was presumed as unplayable on the stage and was more or less forgotten. Since its publishing, particularly "Faust 1" has played an important role in German culture. Many proverbs frequently used in German language originate in this play. Before beginning his work, Goethe read the original story and made some artistic adjustments in the plot that should help him explain the themes he wanted to have explained.Read more ›
Having tried my hand at translations myself, I am awestruck by the performance of Walter Arndt. Faust is rightly regarded as a climax in German letters and,together with Don Quixote,The Divine Comedy, War and Peace and King Lear,in world literature. The nobility of its language, the sharpness of its mockery, the breadth of its subject matter and the beauty of its lyricism all make it unique. And all pose seemingly insuperable problems to the translator
What should a translator do? Try to convey meaning as literally as possible? Reproduce rhyme and meter patterns as faithfully as possible? Convey the spirit of the work more than its form and letters? All of these are worthy objectives but they all are competing and, seemingly, mutually exclusive ones.
It is a measure of Mr.Arndt's artistry that these conflicts seem to dissolve in his text. From the beautiful and melancholy Dedication that precedes Part I to the mystical and esoteric completion of Part II I was unable to find a single jarring note, even though I love the German text with some fanaticism. Compare the following:
Ihr naht Euch wieder, schwankende Gestalten Die frueh sich einst dem trueben Blick gezeigt Wag ich es wohl Euch diesmal fest zu halten..
Once more you near me, wavering apparitions That early showed before the turbid gaze Will now I seek to grant you definition...
Alles Vergaengliche Ist nur ein Gleichniss Das Unzulaengliche Hier wird's Ereignisss Das Unbeschreibliche Hier ist es gethan Das Ewig-Weibliche Zieht uns hinan.Read more ›