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Elective Affinities (1809)

by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,027258,088 (3.75)52
Eduard and Charlotte are an aristocratic couple who live a harmonious but idle life in their estate. But the peace of their existence is thrown into chaos when two visitors - Eduard's friend the Captain and Charlotte's passionate young ward Ottilie - provoke unexpected attraction and forbidden love. Taking its title from the principle of elective affinities - the theory that certain chemicals are naturally drawn to one another - this is a penetrating study of marriage and adultery. Inspired by Goethe's own conflicting loyalties as he battled to maintain his relationship with his wife and control his feelings for a younger woman, Elective Affinities is one of the greatest works of the romance era- a rich exploration of love, conflict, and the inescapable force of fate.… (more)
  1. 30
    The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (LCBrooks)
    LCBrooks: Allows for interesting comparisons on the subject of double marriage.
  2. 10
    The Volcano Lover by Susan Sontag (bertilak)
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» See also 52 mentions

English (12)  Italian (6)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (2)  German (2)  All languages (25)
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
1.1
  BegoMano | Mar 5, 2023 |
Goethe doesn't just write in German, he is the very definition of the German language. This book, as well as das Leiden des Jungen Werters, have clearly shown to me the beauty of die Deutsche Sprache.
Because of this reason I would recommend everybody with only the slightest knowledge of German, to read this in the original language. A translation could never grasp the majestic feeling in which Goethe seems to soak all his words.

Die Wahlverwandschaften is in the first place a book about interpersonal relationships. The titles refers to the chemistry that occurs when certain people are placed together. In this book, a wealthy couple, Eduard and Charlotte, invites two friends: one, a frail, polite girl, the other a solemn guy, who temporarily is out of work. It does not take long until things start to change in this once stable family: in no time Eduard falls in love with Otillie, the girlfriend of Charlotte. And Charlotte starts having feelings for Hauptmann, the friend of Eduard.

The passion, the forbidden love, is a theme that Goethe handles well. The desperate feelings that the protagonists experience are translated into descriptions of intense craving for something that cannot be. Especially interesting is how each person deals differently with the emotions he or she experiences and this supports the main point of the work: people are slaves to their personalities.

One should not live his life without having read at least one work by Goethe. It makes you think about the way we experience emotions, and how we are all part of a mysterious game, driven by even more mysterious forces. Emotions can be as destructive as they are beautiful. ( )
  Boreque | Feb 7, 2022 |
Dopo un anno ritorno da Goethe, da quello stesso Goethe che mi ha tormentata per settimane infinite con il suo Werther, da quello stesso scrittore che mi è stato vicino e mi ha fatto compagnia con le sue parole sincere, profonde, sensibili.
Ho fatto ritorno tra le braccia di Goethe dopo un anno esatto e, dopo un anno esatto, continuo ad amarlo e ad essergli amica.
Il suo romanzo, anche questa volta, mi è stato un amico leale e, forse, persino più di un amico: esso è stato per me confidente e - per citare Kafka - esso è stato per me il coltello col quale frugare dentro me stessa. Ho forse capito meglio l’amore, l’essere affini, affinità, ma, soprattutto, l’essere affinità elettive.
- rapporti umani = rapporti chimici - così ho goffamente, ingenuamente, rozzamente scritto a matita a margine di una pagina di questo romanzo. Perché anche noi siamo fatti di elementi chimici, noi siamo chimica, ed è dunque la chimica che ci attrae gli uni con gli altri.
Ho amato questo libro, l’ho amato e me ne sono presa cura tanto quanto, spero, lui abbia avuto cura di me, del mio cuore giovane e colmo di sogni e di speranze, del mio cuore innamorato dell’amore e del romanticismo, e della mia anima forte e fragile a un tempo, cauta e avventata, pacata ed irruente. Goethe si è, un’altra volta, preso cura di me con la più totale delicatezza e gentilezza.
Goethe ha sempre cura di me, si pena per e con me, mi aiuta a gioire e a piangere, a morire e a rinascere. Questo scrittore è la mia medicina, così lo sono i suoi romanzi e questo, questo breve e immenso romanzo, è una autentica professione d’amore incondizionato e puro. ( )
  wotchergiorgia | Nov 21, 2021 |
It is very important you read a good edition of this book- as it affects the translation. I read one edition almost to the end and restarted from another, and it was an entirely different experience. The one I preferred, invariably, was the one you can find for free on the "Online Library of Liberty" website.

As per the novel, it was amazing. There are ups, downs, tribulations, foils, the switching of motivations and emotions, love, obsession, and overall unity of form. It is a surprising journey from inception to denouement and there is something to be garnered from each and every character. The language, indeed, at times approaches the sublime as well (as well as Odette's diary entries--aphorism in themselves) that unite the entirety of the experience together in a closely knit flashion.

4.5 stars--well deserved too! ( )
  DanielSTJ | Oct 28, 2019 |
Elective Affinities is a bit of slog (hard to tell whether that's because of the translation from German language or the inscrutableness of turn-of-the-19th-century German aristocracy), but it's also not without certain charms. If it weren't for Ottilie's observations as scattered throughout, I wouldn't have been able to finish it; she's a highly entertaining character amidst a cast of bores.

Goethe has chosen pessimistic themes such as tragedy, death, and fatalism to illustrate an optimistic one, that of love. Well, the scientific or chemical attraction of love and how the laws of man regarding love and marriage are no match for laws of nature for the latter requires a conformity that may not be natural at all.

I can't imagine to whom I would ever recommend this, but I'm glad I read it. ( )
  mpho3 | Mar 22, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (66 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Johann Wolfgang von Goetheprimary authorall editionscalculated
Baioni, GiulianoEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Benjamin, WalterAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hollingdale, R. J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lukkenaer, PimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Matt, Peter vonAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Piatti, CelestinoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shüddekopf, JürgenAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Suchtelen, Nico vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Trunz, ErichContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weitz, Hans-JoachimContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wiese, Benno vonContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Eduard was the name of a wealthy baron in the prime of life and he had been spending the best hour of an April afternoon in his orchard nursery grafting new shoots he had just obtained on to the young trees.
Goethe's Elective Affinities began life as a Novelle, and was to have been inserted into Wilhelm Meister's Years of Travel.
Quotations
Human beings reveal their character most clearly by what they find ridiculous.
There are certain things which fate is obstinately determined upon. Reason and virtue, duty and all that is sacred, oppose it in vain; something is to happen that seems right to fate, even if it does not seem right to us; and so, do what we will, fate at last prevails.
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Eduard and Charlotte are an aristocratic couple who live a harmonious but idle life in their estate. But the peace of their existence is thrown into chaos when two visitors - Eduard's friend the Captain and Charlotte's passionate young ward Ottilie - provoke unexpected attraction and forbidden love. Taking its title from the principle of elective affinities - the theory that certain chemicals are naturally drawn to one another - this is a penetrating study of marriage and adultery. Inspired by Goethe's own conflicting loyalties as he battled to maintain his relationship with his wife and control his feelings for a younger woman, Elective Affinities is one of the greatest works of the romance era- a rich exploration of love, conflict, and the inescapable force of fate.

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