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The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann…

The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774)

by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (57)  German (6)  Spanish (4)  Dutch (3)  French (2)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (1)  Swedish (1)  All (1)  Danish (1)  All (1)  All (78)
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
The quintessential romantic novel, it could easily be mistaken for a handbook on how to express your most intimate feelings as far as the things of the heart are concerned. However it's the superlative skills of the author that really counts: that Goethe is considered one of the greatest writers that ever lived come as no surprise after a few pages of this marvel. To read and reread forever. ( )
  EnockPioUlle | Jun 24, 2017 |
I was interested in some of the philosophical issues raised, but the whole pining away for unrequited love theme left me cold. ( )
  fhudnell | Jun 23, 2017 |
This was one I'd heard so much about but was not stirred by. It had serious affective power over its original reading audience, but I wasn't as drawn in as I'd hoped to be. I wonder if the problem is in the translation. I read it in about two hours on the train many years ago and oddly enough I still want to read it and find it moving, but don't know if I ever will. I have such a respect for Goethe's place in Romanticism (and was thoroughly charmed by his house in Frankfurt, especially the attached galleries), yet saddened by how little one of his most famous novels did for me. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
What a thing is the heart of man!

- Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther

In The Sorrows of Young Werther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe opens a window into the soul of his young protagonist, allowing the reader to witness first hand his tragic destiny. Young Werther suffers from a hopeless love for the enchanting Charlotte who is engaged to an older man. In a series of letters to his friend Wilhelm, Werther reveals the depths of his anguish. The Sorrows of Young Werther is a beautifully told tale of the interior of a human heart in conflict.

First published in 1774, Goethe's epistolary novel has many of the hallmarks of literary romanticism: unattainable love, a passionate and sensitive protagonist, feelings bared open to the world, and a deep appreciation for nature. In his book The Novel 100, Daniel Burt calls The Sorrows of Young Werther "One of the defining works of European Romanticism."

Werther is a young artist who moves to the village of Walheim where he meets the lovely Charlotte, daughter of the local judge. Charlotte's mother has died, leaving her to care for her brothers and sisters, and Werther becomes enamored of her, despite knowing that she is engaged to Albert, a man eleven years her senior. As he spends more time with Charlotte and Albert, Werther's love for Charlotte increases, and so does his torment at knowing she is unattainable. The letters Werther writes to his friend Wilhelm express both the intensity of his love and the pain it causes him.

Goethe's novel is beautifully written and groundbreaking in its portrayal of a human soul. German literary scholar Karl Viëtor writes about the novel's significance:

Among European novels Werther is the first in which an inward life, a spiritual process and nothing else, is represented, and hence it is the first psychological novel....The scene is the soul of the hero. All events and figures are regarded only in the light of the significance they have for Werther's emotion.

One thing that stands out in the novel is the likability of all of its characters. This is a novel with no clear antagonist, no evil villain. Not only is Charlotte beautiful, but she is also kind, charming, and generous. Albert is a good man who loves Charlotte. Werther himself is a passionate, sensitive young man whose feelings for Charlotte are pure and innocent. And yet there is conflict in the novel. The reader feels it almost from the very first page. What should Werther do about his passionate feelings for Charlotte? Ignore them? Act on them? Suppress them and move on? What should Charlotte do, and Albert?

These questions raise even deeper questions and invite the reader to reflect on his or her own beliefs about love and passion. What is love, and where does it come from? What is the role of emotion in relationships and what is the role of intellect?

The Sorrows of Young Werther is well worth a read, not only for its beautiful prose, but also for its attempt to grapple with issues of love and passion. ( )
  nsenger | Feb 9, 2017 |
Werther was one of the first cult novels in European history, arguably the book that put the novel solidly in place as the dominant literary form for the next couple of centuries. It was condemned by the older generation, provoked a new trend in men's fashion, was blamed for a wave of teenage suicides, and generally had all the attributes we now attach to fads like Pokemon Go and self-driving cars...

It's probably a book you need to read in your teens. Re-reading it in later life, it's difficult to feel much sympathy for Werther, who insists on falling in love with a young woman who is already engaged to someone else, makes a nuisance of himself by stalking her, and then makes everyone's life even more miserable by killing himself. In the final pages of the novel, he acts like a tenor in the last act of an opera - every time you think he's finished and is about to pull the trigger, he steps back and adds a couple more paragraphs to his already voluminous suicide note. "Enough already!", readers have been wanting to shout for the last two centuries.

It's an exasperating and profoundly foolish book in many ways, but it also has some very beautiful passages, so not a complete waste of time, but it's definitely best-read when you're in the mood for the love-lorn. ( )
  thorold | Oct 1, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
The legend that it generated a teenage-suicide epidemic across Europe is dubious, but the novel’s international popularity two hundred years ago can’t be overstated. ... Werther’s sorrows didn’t look petty to Goethe or to his original audience, and they ought to feel even more familiar to us.

» Add other authors (153 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Johann Wolfgang von Goetheprimary authorall editionscalculated
Alavedra, JoanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Auden, W. H.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baioni, GiulianoEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beutler, ErnstAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chodowiecki, Daniel NikolausIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Corngold, StanleyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garagorri, PaulinoPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Große, WilhelmKommentatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hulse, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hutter, CatherineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kilpi, VolterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leroux, PierreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Michels, HermannCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morgan, Bayard QuincyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pike, BurtonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Steinhauer, HarryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weigand, Hermann J.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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I have diligently collected everything I have been able to discover concerning the story of poor Werther, and here present it to you in the knowledge that you will be grateful for it.
On 30th October 1772, Legation Secretary Karl Wilhelm Jerusalem in Wetzlar hot and killed himself with a pistol borrowed from J. C. Kestner, a friend of Goethe. (Introduction)
Sie ist mir heilig. Alle Begier schweigt in ihrer Gegenwart. Ich weiß nie, wie mir ist, wenn ich bei ihr bin; es ist, als wenn die Seele sich mir in allen Nerven umkehrte.
Wenn wir uns selbst fehlen, dann fehlt uns doch alles.
[Charlotte] was holding a loaf of rye bread and cutting a piece for each of the little ones about her.
Solitude in this terrestrial paradise is a genial balm to my mind, and the young spring cheers with its bounteous promises my oftentimes misgiving heart. Every tree, every bush, is full of flowers; and one might wish himself transformed into a butterfly, to float about in this ocean of perfume, and find his whole existence in it.
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An alpine meadow / Sweet scent of grass and flowers / Below - the abyss. (KangarooRat)

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German classic about a young romantic's life and suicides which sparked a rash of suicide in the 18th century.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014044503X, 0141023449

W.W. Norton

An edition of this book was published by W.W. Norton.

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