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Italian Journey: 1786-1788 (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 1, 1992

4.7 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, German (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born in Frankfurt-on-Main in 1749. He studied at Leipzig, where he showed interest in the occult, and at Strassburg, where Herder introduced him to Shakespeare’s works and to folk poetry. He produced some essays and lyrical verse, and at twenty-two wrote Götz von Berlichingen, a play which brought him national fame and established him in the current Sturm und Drang movement. This was followed by the novel The Sorrows of Young Werther in 1774, which was an even greater success.

Goethe began work on Faust, and Egmont, another tragedy before being invited to join the government of Weimar. His interest in the classical world led him to leave suddenly for Italy in 1786 and the Italian Journey recounts his travels there. Iphigenia in Tauris and Torquato Tasso, classical dramas, were written at this time. Returning to Weimar, Goethe started the second part of Faust, encouraged by Schiller. In 1806 he married Christiane Vulpius. During this late period he finished his series of Wilhelm Master books and wrote many other works, including The Oriental Divan (1819). He also directed the State Theatre and worked on scientific theories in evolutionary botany, anatomy and color. Goethe completed Faust in 1832, just before he died.
W.H. Auden was born in 1907 and went to Oxford University, where he became Professor of Poetry from 1956 to 1960. After the publication of his Poems in 1930, he became the acknowledged leader of the 'thirties poets'. His poetic output was prolific, and he also wrote verse plays in collaboration with Christopher Isherwood, with whom he visited china. In 1946 he became a U.S. citizen. He died in 1973.
Elizabeth Mayer was born in Mecklengurg in 1884 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1936. In collaboration with Louise Blogan she translated Werther and Elective Affinities

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (December 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140442332
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140442335
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #473,270 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In preparation for a trip to Italy, I began reading the accounts of famous travellers to that land: D.H. Lawrence, Charles Dickens, Tobias Smollett, and now Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. I had no great expectations but was knocked for a loop from page one.
Never before had I encountered a questing mind quite like Goethe's. Almost from the moment to left Carlsbad in September 1786, he was noticing the geological structures underlying the land and the flora and fauna above it. He sits down and talks with ordinary people without an attitude -- and this after he had turned the heads of half of Europe with his SORROWS OF YOUNG WERTHER. Here he was journeying incognito, apparently knowing the language well enough to communicate with peasants, prelates, and nobility.
One who abhors marking books I intend to keep, I found myself underlining frequently. "In this place," he writes from Rome, "whoever looks seriously about him and has eyes to see is bound to become a stronger character." In fact, Goethe spent over a year in Rome learning art, music, science, and even sufferings the pangs of love with a young woman from Milan.
Bracketing his stay in Rome is a longish journey to Naples and Sicily, where he becomes acquainted with Sir Warren Hamilton and his consort Emma, the fascinating Princess Ravaschieri di Satriano, and other German travelers. One of them, Wilhelm Tischbein, painted a wonderful portrait of Goethe the traveller shown on the cover of the Penguin edition.
The translation of W.H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer is truly wonderful. My only negative comments are toward the Penguin editors who, out of some pennywise foolishness, have omitted translating the frequent Latin, Greek, and French quotes.
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Format: Paperback
Many people are deterred from attempting to read something...anything...by Goethe because of his extremely penetrating intelligence and dense prose. But his "Travels in Italy" are by far easier to digest than anything else by him. The journal is a straightforward diary of his sojourn to Italy as a young man sometime in the 1770's. The book has a modern ring to it, and indeed Goethe seems to foreshadow the coming of many of the things we consider "modern" today: intense self examination, scientific methodology, and anthropology. But that's not what makes this a great book. Long after you finish it you will be contemplating the wealth of pithy, insightful comments he makes about Italians in particular and humans in general. You will revisit portions of this book many times, and you will mark passages in it so you can pull it down and quote it to your friends. A fabulous feast for the intellect and a balm for the spirit.
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By A Customer on May 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
This has long been my favorite work by Goethe. It is very readable, which most people don't expect from Goethe, connecting him to his poetry and to Faust, etc. But the book reveals so much about him (the reader gets a sense that the man knows he will be evaluated by people hundreds of years hence) and it also leaves so much to the imagination. I can't recommend this book more highly. It contains the musings of a brilliant human being and is a singular travelogue of Italy.
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It is curious that, as translators W.H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer point out in the Introduction, outside Germany, Goethe remains highly respected yet never actually read by most literary people. Studying literature during and before my undergraduate years, I was introduced to Dante in translation, to Moliere and Racine in the original French and, of course, to Shakespeare. But Goethe was barely mentioned, certainly not studied. Perhaps it is down to the difficulty of the German language. I simply don't know. I did read The Sorrows of Young Werther on my own in my youth, but remember being unimpressed. The Germans, on the other hand, have had a love affair with Shakespeare that, at times, has almost eclipsed the devotion to him in his own country. In short, I felt obliged to read this travelogue in an attempt to become better acquainted with a writer whom Germans hold in such high esteem.

And what a treat it is! Whatever Goethe's motives in making a sojourn in Italy, much debated in the Introduction, it seems certainly well worth it for him as well as for the reader. Well-nigh every chapter is drenched with the Italian sunshine and carpe diem attitudes he finds in Italy (particularly Naples) which he seldom fails to contrast with what he refers to as the dark and gloomy northern climes. As he states, almost shouts, one wants to say, in a letter written from San Luca, "I shall leave everything as it stands because first impressions, even if they are not always correct, are valuable and precious to us. Oh, if only I could send my distant friends a breath of the more carefree existence here!
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Format: Paperback
Goethe comes alive as a very real person, not just the famous German author, in this travel memoir detailing the two years he spent in Italy in the 1780's. A wonderful description of travel before airplanes and cameras. Somewhat tedious descriptions of geology and of his works-in-progress are frequent, but never too long.
It might be helpful to read (or re-read) the introduction after having read part of the book (say, into the first Roman visit).
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