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The Sufferings of Young Werther 70-95519 Edition
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Read it! You may discover how human you are!
Granted, Goethe is a man of towering genius; his understanding of human nature is very much in evidence here. However, reading the book, I feel it is very much a product of its time. The narrative format (letters written by the protagonist) as well as the excessive sentimentality, were products of the "Age of Sentimentality" that swept through much of Europe during the latter half of the 18th-century. One's take on the book, therefore, correlates highly with how one reacts to the features of this period. The constant snivelling and braying that occurs throughout the book is unendurable, and the unlikeliness of the events is compounded by the artifice of the narration itself (the epistolary novel). However, because, it's Goethe writing, there is the occasional timeless observation ("When we feel inadequate to ourselves, everything seems inadequate to us") that only Goethe can put into words. Its moments such as those that salvage an otherwise uninteresting read.
As is common with Norton editions, the text is packed with useful annotations, biographical notes, and critical studies. The translation is also good, maintaining the tenor of Goethe's words but updating them for modern ears.
Since this text was a crucial contributor to the "sturm und drang" (storm and stress) movement, one perhaps would be best served by appreciating the historical value of the text, and discounting its "factual content" (to steal from Benjamin). Otherwise, I fear one might run into the same problems I did.
As soon as this book was published, it enjoyed huge popularity and it was translated into numerous languages. It was the first German book of this kind and even Napoleon Bonaparte read this book up to seven times.
The Sufferings of young Werther is a psychologic and a very tragic tale of a young man who falls in love hopelessly with a married woman. Werther proves to be very intellegent and smart but chosing what he chose to do made him indeed very stupid after all.
Of course in order to find out what Werther did, and how the story unfolds - you'll have to read the book yourself but if you listen to my advice don't read it if you're in love with someone and you're single as Werther was because it wouldn't be a wise thing to do. At least that's my opinion (concern). Cheers.