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Goethe: Life as a Work of Art by Rüdiger…
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Goethe: Life as a Work of Art (2013)

by Rüdiger Safranski

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Safranski is an old hand at writing biographies about great Germans and this book about Goethe is a joy to read. The author's main interest are Goethe's work and his relations with his peers. His copious affairs and travels are reported rather quickly if at all. Safranski is also keen in presenting the not so attractive side of Goethe as a bully, such as when he nailed the (bad) work of a colleague to a tree. A petty and mean public "crucification" of a minor writer by the bullying shooting star of German literature. Goethe always cared about his personal power and glory - quite a contrast to the idealistic Schiller. No wonder Goethe admired Napoleon greatly. One ghastly episode has Goethe fondling the skull of Schiller who died much too young.

As Safranski isn't a young man himself, Goethe as an old man is a major focus of the biography. His ailing and decline are quite drastically told. No "more light" but intense pain and a ghastly struggle at the end when Death finally defeated the near immortal Goethe who outlived his much younger wife, his son, his duke and almost anyone else. Born in 1749, Goethe lived to 1832 - through the style periods of baroque/rococo, the classic era and Biedermeier. Safranski's presentation of many of Goethe's lesser works shows that he was at his best when some personal crisis triggered deeper involvement in a work whereas he churned out many now justly almost forgotten works over the years in regular production mode. ( )
3 vote jcbrunner | Apr 30, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rüdiger Safranskiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Beers, PaulEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Posthuma, ArdContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wildschut, MarkTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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