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Goethe's Faust, Part 1: An English Translation Hardcover – October, 1976

4.2 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Hardcover, October, 1976
$57.64 $1.96
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews


"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 Paperback edition.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Goethe's (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux; First Edition edition (October 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374164762
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374164768
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,677,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
"Vainly in the day time labored, pick and shovel, clink and strike." Goethe worked on Faust for much of his career, but composed some of the best of Part II in a time of life when most are in their rocking chairs or in the intensive care ward of the local nursing home. Goethe in his late seventies and early eighties would rise in the early dawn and compose some of the best poetry written. "I would elevate my mind to a kind of productivity which brought all this forth, in a full state of consciousness and which pleases me still, even though perhaps I could never swim again in such a river." It has been said that German poetry is difficult to translate or untranslatable, and this seems true with some translations of Faust, but the Norton contains a superb effort by Walter Arndt which appears always so on the mark that one suspects Arndt actually embellishes the German, but, rather than quibble over accuracy, it is all so good you will hardly care. Goethe builds upon the medieval Faust legend as a skeleton for his own writing in epic-poem style with various meter fashioned to fit the subject. Faust, weary of the ways of the world (one can almost hear the 60s hippy) embarks on a journey of self-discovery, skirt chasing and empire building finally ending in his 100th year in the ultimate trip, with a little help from his friend, Goethe. This composition is remarkable in innumerable ways. One can use a thesaurus of superlatives: wonderful imagery, perfect choice of words, peerless imagination, beautiful poetry, a unity to the whole which is memorable, as well as numerous wonderful scenes and lines, and always an intelligence that seems to absorb and understand everything. Of course, one can differ with Goethe philosophically.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having tried my hand at translations myself, I am awestruck by the performance of Walter Arndt. Faust is rightly regarded as a climax in German letters and,together with Don Quixote,The Divine Comedy, War and Peace and King Lear,in world literature. The nobility of its language, the sharpness of its mockery, the breadth of its subject matter and the beauty of its lyricism all make it unique. And all pose seemingly insuperable problems to the translator

What should a translator do? Try to convey meaning as literally as possible? Reproduce rhyme and meter patterns as faithfully as possible? Convey the spirit of the work more than its form and letters? All of these are worthy objectives but they all are competing and, seemingly, mutually exclusive ones.

It is a measure of Mr.Arndt's artistry that these conflicts seem to dissolve in his text. From the beautiful and melancholy Dedication that precedes Part I to the mystical and esoteric completion of Part II I was unable to find a single jarring note, even though I love the German text with some fanaticism. Compare the following:

Ihr naht Euch wieder, schwankende Gestalten
Die frueh sich einst dem trueben Blick gezeigt
Wag ich es wohl Euch diesmal fest zu halten..

Once more you near me, wavering apparitions
That early showed before the turbid gaze
Will now I seek to grant you definition...

Or this:

Alles Vergaengliche
Ist nur ein Gleichniss
Das Unzulaengliche
Hier wird's Ereignisss
Das Unbeschreibliche
Hier ist es gethan
Das Ewig-Weibliche
Zieht uns hinan.
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Format: Paperback
Looking at some reviews by other reviewers, I realized that not everybody has heard of Faust or of Goethe, and I was pretty shocked.
The first part of what I'm saying is about this translation. As Luke so graphically showed in his "Translator's introduction", there are many things that pull at the translator's central agenda: rhyme, metre, primary meaning, nuance, and so on, and the translator has to achieve a balance. Among the translations I've read and from snippets of what I've seen of other translations, Wayne's translation has the most smooth-flowing, elegant rhyme I've seen.
As positives for this translation: The elegance is unparallelled; the wit is sparkling; the metre is almost flawless; the deviation from Goethe is usually acceptable; and there is never, repeat, never, an obvious rhyme-holder word.
As negatives for this translation: There is in a few cases too much of deviation from the original; Wayne at times infuses his own interpretation and character into the work; and the English, though just perfect for, say, a 1950's speaker in England (and those of us used to that kind of word-flow), may be distracting for Americans in 2000.
An example of the latter: "What depth of chanting, whence the blissful tone / That lames my lifting of the fatal glass?" This is pretty representative: if "lames my lifting" does not sound pretentious or obscure, and if the elegance of it strikes you, Wayne's translation is the one for you. If on the other hand, "lames my lifting" sounds straight out of a mediaeval scroll (as I believe is the case with many Americans), then look elsewhere for a translation you will enjoy (read: Luke).
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