"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.
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*.
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 ›
I have no doubt that this is the best English translation of Faust. It is certainly the translation for those who love the tale. All the life and humor and glory shines through. It is not a "scholar's" translation. It is still fully alive.
I know that people avoid Faust for being too formidable and daunting. They need not feel so. It is amazing just how smoothly the translation of Part One reads. You do not want to put it down. Yet it is so very accurate- a quick glance across to the opposing German original confirms that.
As for Part Two, it doesn't read quite so smoothly, but that is no fault of the translator, since the original German also lacks the perfect flow and polish of Part One. Goethe didn't have sixty more years to perfect it as he did with the first part. In fact, we are only given a translation of the first and last acts. The intervening three acts are summarized in the introduction. My sole criticism of this edition is that the summary should have been actually bound between these two acts so that you do not have to flip back to the introduction to refresh your memory. Still, you can piece the full flavor and meaning out of Part Two in spite of these obstacles.
The author tells us in the introduction that we shouldn't fall into the Germanic trap of analyzing the idea behind the story. He seems to insist that we appreciate it for poetry and characterization and leave it at that. To my mind that would be frivolous. The core idea in Faust is the tale of the German nation- indeed of most of western civilization. Faust the scholar and magician represents the dissatisfaction and arrogance of modern man. Not content with comprehending God's will and putting himself in accord with the Divine order he tries to play God himself in order to "improve" creation.Read more ›
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.