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The Sorrows of Young Werther (Penguin Classics) Paperback – August 1, 1989

Book 449 of 12 in the Colección Austral Series
ISBN-13: 978-0140445039 ISBN-10: 014044503X Edition: Reissue

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (August 1, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014044503X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140445039
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.3 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #359,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German

From the Inside Flap

A major work of German romanticism in a translation that is acknowledged as the definitive English language version. The Vintage Classics edition also includes NOVELLA, Goethe's poetic vision of an idyllic pastoral society. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

If you are worried about something, I want you to read this book.
The reader can really get a sense of Werther's intense yet forbidden love for a woman he cannot have.
Goethe is a master of poetry and this one ist the most emotional book he wrote.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

93 of 99 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
I always find it sad that more people do not read Goethe for pleasure alone. Yes, he was a "scholarly" writer but his works, although profound, are written in an easily understandable style. I think too many people have been needlessly scared off by Goethe's monumental intelligence and his philosophy. This is too bad. His books revolve around themes that are universal, subjects to which all of us can relate: romantic love, nature, God, beauty.
Eighteenth-century German literature was propelled by a revolution in romanticism, and writers such as Goethe celebrated their most cherished ideals in as ornate and eloquent a manner as possible. While the tendency of American and British writers to ignore the sublime and the romantic in favor of stark realism does have its place, that does not mean that the sublime and the romantic should be casually tossed aside.
The Sorrows of Young Werther is not Goethe at this best (you need to read Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship for that) but it the best introduction to Goethe anyone could find and a lovely novella in its own right. The Sorrows of Young Werther opens more amazingly than any book I have ever read and it is not overstating things a bit to say that Goethe gives us something profound and beautiful on each and every page.
The Sorrows of Young Werther is comprised, for the most part, of letters written by a hopelessly romantic young man named Werther to a friend named Wilhelm. These letters not only detail Werther's doomed love for the beautiful Charlotte, they also contain the most beautiful meditations on just about everything important in life: love, beauty, nature, philosophy, art, religion.
In Werther, Goethe clearly shows us the problems inherent in loving and idealizing something a bit too much.
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68 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Kendall VINE VOICE on May 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
We tend to think of our era as unique when we descry the impact that the media has on our young people's behavior. Well the same thing happened 200 years ago when this book was first published. Impressionable young readers who identified so completely with Werther went out and committed suicide by the droves. Werther is the prototypical Romantic male, who "feels" more deeply than the rest of humanity. Unlike Heathcliffe, who settles on revenge as an answer to his thwarted designs, Werther takes it out on himself. Of course, there's a great deal of self-destruction at work in Heathcliffe's persona too. I would recommend this to a reader who is just getting to know Goethe. I read it when I was about eighteen and it definitely struck a nerve with me at that time. It made me want to read everything by Goethe I could find in translation. Read it, and if you like it, as I am sure you will, go on to Goethe's two great Romantic novels, Elective Affinities and Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship. I found in my earlier readings that I never went wrong with what used to be referred to as Penguin Classics (now Vintage) translations. They're normally all top-notch, whether Greek, Latin, French, German, Russian, etc. PS: If you're a young reader, please don't take Werther too much to heart. It's only a novel, ok?
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Plume45 on May 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
What is it about this particular novella which inspired a series of youthful suicides throughout Europe soon after its publication? Why did Napoleon insist on keeping the French translation with him during his campaign in Egypt? How did Goethe succeed in capturing the poignancy of the human heart, while fascinating a jaded but "enlightened" 18th century public? The young German author touched a universal chord with this slender volume, in which he offers tender insight on such diverse Romantic subjects as Love, Religion, Nature and Man's relationships with God and his fellow men. Why do critics consider it a classic of both German and World Literature?
Presented in a quaint literary style, this story consists of confidential diary entries and letters to a trusted friend, Wilhelm, by a senstitive protagonist, with the addition of editorial notes. (The latter results from the inveitable drawbacks of first-person narratives.) The plot unfolds as Werther, a young nobleman who interests himself in the daily activities of the peasantry, is enjoying an extended holiday in a scenic area of Germany. Free to savor the magnificent natural beauty around him, Werther is soon dazzled by the numerous charms of the delightful Charlotte--daughter of a local town dignitary. This paragon of feminie virtue and attraction appears more sensual and maternal than truly sexual.
Alas, the incomparable Lotte is already engaged to absent Albert, due home soon. Is she too naive to understand that in Werther she has acquired an ardent admirer? Is she aware of his easily-inflamed fascination, or the violent depths of his stifled emotions? Is she oblivious or heartless to his passionate despair once her fiance has returned?
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Guillermo Maynez on January 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
OK, young fool falls in love with married girl. Becomes friend of the couple. Husband starts to get annoyed. Hero declares his love and then commits suicide. You can read that in the paper once in a while. So, why is this a great novel and a landmark of Romantic literature? Because it has a lot to make us think. A famous fact related to this book is that, short after it was published, a series of suicides took place in Europe, mostly by young guys in the same situation as Werther. That should set clear the influence and strenght of the novel. It is extremely well written; the scenery is gorgeous -rural, upper class Germany in the Eighteenth century. The book is written as a secret diary addressed to a trusted friend, and to any readers, young or old, it will strike a chord in their hearts. Tell me, who is there that never experienced dreams of punishing that insensible beloved from school by committing suicide and then have her cry and repent at the funeral? But most of us are still here, with her or, most likely, with someone else or alone. We survived love's infatuation; Werther did not, and he is now a prototype of unlimited love (or lack of maturity, depending on your point of view). I prefer to see it as a great story written, at an early stage, by one of the greatest geniuses of all time. "Werther"
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