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Maxims and Reflections (Penguin Classics) Paperback – March 1, 1999


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (March 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140447202
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140447200
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #510,718 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German

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.


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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Ramon Kranzkuper on July 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
I say this is essential reading, but this is more true for someone familiar with Goethe. This is not to say that the casual reader will not find something of value, but 'Maxims and Reflections' is as much a reflection of Goethe and what he held true and interesting, as it is a collection of "wise sayings."
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.
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33 of 41 people found the following review helpful By "m_duff" on May 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is my first Goethe reading, and I was very unimpressed. I was turned on to Goethe after reading a couple insightful quotes used in articles, but found the book to be incredibly dry and uninspiring...not to mention below expectations for one of the most highly regarded German writers of all times. Puzzled, I found the quote that encouraged me to read Goethe in the first place...
"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.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mingo Dangledong on February 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
This small book has held more inspiration and caused me to pause and reflect more than any other I have read. I find myself circling the number preceding the most poignant passages so I can return to them at a later time of need. It is as essential as the works of the great philosophers.
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