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Maxims and Reflections (Penguin Classics) Paperback – March 1, 1999
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Original Language: German
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Top Customer Reviews
I think it would be helpful to a potential reader to review here some of the Maxims and Reflections, with comments.
Some are simplistic: "Behaviour is a mirror in which everyone shows his image."
Some are interesting, and one will see the truth in them upon some reflection. These may not really educate, but they are interesting in themselves: "There is something horrifying about a man of outstanding excellence of whom stupid people are proud."
Some are statements of what most of us would agree with easily, but they are important because they shed light upon the man and his concerns. For example, we often see how concerned he is with certain kinds of people being dangerous: "Fools and intelligent people are equally undamaging. Half-fools and half-sages, these are the most dangerous of all."
Some are incomprehensible: "Work makes the journeyman."
Some are enigmatic, at least to me: "Wisdom is to be found only in truth."
Some are observations that are not too profound but which will serve as food for thought: "Human nature needs to be numbed from time to time, but without being put to sleep; hence smoking, spirits, opiates."
Some are simply personal beliefs, and we need to know that Goethe beleived such-and-such a thing: "Painting and tattooing the body is a return to animality.Read more ›
"No one is more hopelessly enslaved, than the person who falsely believes he is free."
Not bad, right? Right...but this translation was from the *article* I read, not the book/translation being reviewed. In the book/translation being reviewed, the quote read as follows...
"No one is more a slave that the one who thinks he is free without being free."
Wow! Just flows off the tongue. Don't we think that a master of the German language would use stronger language? Wouldn't we expect verbage more similar to the former rather than the latter example? Wouldn't we expect one of the greatest writers of all time to paint a gripping visual rather than dribble out some wisdom?
I think so. I'm going to go out on a limb and trust centuries of readers and critics. 300 years can't be wrong.
The stark difference b/w the two examples leads me to believe that the translation we are reviewing is either very poor, or very literal. I am by no means a German authority (I have enough trouble with English) and I haven't researched this enough to draw any other conclusions, but I HAVE to give Goethe the benefit of the doubt. I think a different translation may be more moving.
here is a little taste:
"...hatred is active displeasure,envy is passive,hence one not be suprised when envy turns into hatred..." #247 from ART AN ANTIQUITY
"...a merry companion is like a cart to give us a lift along our way..."
#236 from ART AND ANTIQUITY
"...when a rainbow last more than a quarter of an hour,we stop looking at it...#161- From ART AND ANTIQUITY
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'd never read any Goethe before but found these maxims to be spectacular. Some short favorites: "Behavior is a mirror in which everyone shows his image. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Ryan C. Holiday
Is Goethe dead? His immense reputation in the 19th century among English writers (Lewes wrote a splendid biography of him, Carlyle translated WILHELM MEISTER, Arnold and George... Read morePublished 15 months ago by reading man
Goethe is solid and sane, often commonplace and down- to- earth. His wisdom does not strike you suddenly like Kafka's definition of poetry an axe breaking through the frozen sea-... Read morePublished on January 29, 2005 by Shalom Freedman