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Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship: Johann…
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Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Goethe: The… (edition 1995)

by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Author), Eric A. Blackall (Editor)

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8371219,552 (3.75)50
Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, a novel of self-realization greatly admired by the Romantics, has been called the first Bildungsroman and has had a tremendous influence on the history of the German novel. The story centers on Wilhelm, a young man living in the mid-1700s who strives to break free from the restrictive world of economics and seeks fulfillment as an actor and playwright. Along with Eric Blackall's fresh translation of the work, this edition contains notes and an afterword by the translator that aims to put this novel into historical and artistic perspective for twentieth-century readers while showing how it defies categorization.… (more)
Member:Marco357
Title:Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Goethe: The Collected Works, Vol. 9)
Authors:Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Author)
Other authors:Eric A. Blackall (Editor)
Info:Princeton University Press (1995), 396 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:to-read

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Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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English (7)  Catalan (2)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
This was a great read. It is no wonder why Goethe is considered to be one of the greatest writers of all time in Germany and abroad. It is a classic tale that allows one to get into the sensibilities of the setting it was in while looking out at the greater world, towards freedom and self-discovery. This Bildungsroman is one that is definitely worth reading. Sections of the writing are simply brilliant and the story courses forward, like a current towards an endless ocean, in its graceful meaning.

5 stars. EXCELLENT! ( )
  DanielSTJ | May 19, 2019 |
[From Books and You, Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1940, p. 51-54:]

Now I want to leap across a couple of centuries and try to persuade you to read a book which most people will tell you, if they have ever heard of it, is unreadable. This is Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister, and it was very conscientiously translated by Carlyle. Goethe is under a cloud in Germany just now; he aimed at being a citizen of the world rather than a citizen of the state, and that is an attitude which finds small favour with the present rulers of his country; but even before they attained power Wilhelm Meister was little read even in Germany. […] My opinion is that it is a very interesting and significant work. It is the last of the eighteenth-century novels of sentiment, it is the first of the romantic novels of the nineteenth-century, and it is the forerunner of the autobiographical novels of which there has been in our own day such a plentiful crop. The hero is as colourless as are the heroes of most autobiographical novels. I do not quite know why this should be. Perhaps it is because when we write about ourselves we are disconcerted by the contrast between our aims and our achievements, and insensibly dwell on the disappointment we feel with ourselves for having made so much less of our opportunities than we had hoped to, and thus present the reader with a frustrated, rather than with a fulfilled, character. Perhaps it is that, just as when we walk down the street all the exciting things seem to happen on the other side, our own experiences appear so commonplace to us that we cannot describe them without making ourselves commonplace too; and it is only the experiences of others that have the thrilling quality of what is strange and romantic. But on the thread of this feckless creature Goethe has strung a great number of curious incidents; he has surrounded him with unusual, varied and fantastic persons, and he has used him as a mouthpiece for his own ideas on all manner of subjects. Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship – I cannot recommend the Travels, which are intolerable – is at once poetical, absurd, profound and dull. Well, the dull parts you can skip. Carlyle said that he had not got so many ideas out of any book that he had read for six years, but it is only honest to add that he said also: “Goethe is the greatest genius that has lived for a century and the greatest ass that has lived for three.”

[From Points of View, Vintage Classics, 2000 [1958], “Three Novels of a Poet”, pp. 2, 54-55:]

I suppose few people in England read it now, unless for scholastic reasons they are obliged to, and I don't know why anyone should – except that it is lively and amusing, both romantic and realistic; except that the characters are curious and unusual, very much alive and presented with vigour; except that there are scenes of great variety, vividly and admirably described, and at least two of high comedy, a rarity in Goethe's works; except that interspersed in it are lyrics as beautiful and touching as any that he ever wrote; except that there is a disquisition on Hamlet which many eminent critics have agreed is a subtle analysis of the Dane's ambiguous character; and above all, except that its theme is of singular interest. If, with all these merits, the novel on the whole is a failure, it is because Goethe, for all his genius, for all his intellectual powers, for all his knowledge of life, lacked the specific gift which would have made him a great novelist as well as a great poet.

If anyone were to ask me what this specific gift is, I should not know how to answer. It is evident that the novelist must be something of an extrovert, since otherwise he will not have the urge to express himself; but he can make with no more intelligence than is needed for a man to be a good lawyer or a good doctor. He must be able to tell such story as he has to tell effectively so that he may hold his readers' attention. He need not love his fellow-creatures (that would be asking too much) but he must be profoundly interested in them; and he must have the gift of empathy which enables him to step into their shoes, think their thoughts and feel their feelings. Perhaps Goethe, terrific egoist as he was, failed as a novelist because he lacked just that.

[…]

Once upon a time, when they were all young and wild and gay, the Duke had built a hunting lodge on the summit of a mountain peak, and on the wall Goethe had written a verse in pencil.

Ueber allen Gipfeln
Ist Ruh
In allen Wipfeln
Spürest du
Kaum einen Hauch
Die Vögelein schweigen im Walde;
Warte nur, balde
Ruhest du auch.

During the last year of his life, he visited the spot again, and read the lines he had written hard on half a century before. He wept. What makes old age hard to bear is not the failing of one's faculties, mental and physical, but the burden of one's memories.

[From Cakes and Ale, Heinemann/Doubleday, 1930, chapter 2:]

"I think the instinctive judgments I formed when I was a boy were right. They told me Carlyle was a great writer and I was ashamed that I found the French Revolution and Sartor Resartus unreadable. Can anyone read them now? I thought the opinions of others must be better than mine and I persuaded myself that I thought George Meredith magnificent. In my heart I found him affected, verbose, and insincere. A good many people think so too now. Because they told me that to admire Walter Pater was to prove myself a cultured young man, I admired Walter Pater, but heavens how Marius bored me!"
"Oh, well, I don't suppose anyone reads Pater now, and of course Meredith has gone all to pot and Carlyle was a pretentious windbag."
"You don't know how secure of immortality they all looked thirty years ago."
"And have you never made mistakes?"
"One or two. I didn't think half as much of Newman as I do now, and I thought a great deal more of the tinkling quatrains of Fitzgerald. I could not read Goethe's Wilhelm Meister; now I think it his masterpiece."
2 vote WSMaugham | Jun 25, 2015 |
It may be difficult nowadays to awaken a youngster’s interest for Goethe’s William. However, if an adolescent feels being artistically talented, he should be sure to remember William’s quotation: « ... mich selbst, ganz wie ich da bin, auszubilden, das war dunkel von Jugend auf mein Wunsch und meine Absicht ». (…to represent myself exactly as I am, that was my unconscious desire and intention up from youth.) (Sorry, own translation, certainly capable of improvement!) The point of the matter is the deep need of self-portrayal, which marks the difference between an artist and a common man.
  hbergander | Dec 18, 2011 |
I didn't finish this. It was a sweet and philosophical rendition of the idea of what a novel is, achaic but very instructive ( )
  x57 | Aug 14, 2011 |
A rather odd offering from Goethe. This novel perplexed me when I first read it, and in many ways it continues to do so. For a book which is often considered the original Bildungsroman -- a genre I associate with something like Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain, with its focus on the protagonist's cultural mileau and its influence on his personal development -- Wilhelm Meister seems oddly disjointed and unteleological, and the characterization of Wilhelm remains incoherent. The novel makes the most sense if it is read as an exercise in style, since each of the books can be seen as experimenting with a different genre, but it is definitely not what I was expecting.

In spite of these concerns (some apparently shared by Goethe's contemporaries, whose critical reactions were mixed), Goethe remains a wonderful raconteur, and his writing is always a pleasure to read. This may actually be part of what makes the book so frustrating -- with a lesser writer it would be easy to dismiss the difficulties of the work as a lack of skill in developing plots, but Goethe has amply shown what he is capable of, so we keep looking for other explanations to understand what he is doing. Experimenting with realism, perhaps, with the artificiality of generic conventions.
3 vote spiphany | Oct 8, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (37 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Johann Wolfgang von Goetheprimary authorall editionscalculated
Carlyle, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Catel, Franz LudwigIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dietrich, IsaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lehmann, ElkeContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lehmann, UweContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schmidt, ErichHerausgebersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Займовский… Семен ГригорьевичTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Das Schauspiel dauerte sehr lange.
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Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen blühn,/Im dunkeln Laub die Goldorangen glühn,/Ein sanfter Wind vom blauen Himmel weht,/Die Myrte still und hoch der Lorbeer steht?/Kennst du es wohl? Dahin!/Dahin möcht' ich mit dir,/O mein Geliebter, ziehn.
Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen aß,/Wer nie die kummervollen Nächte/Auf seinem Bette weinend saß,/Der kennt euch nicht, ihr himmlischen Mächte./Ihr führt ins Leben uns hinein,/Ihr lasst den Armen schuldig werden,/Dann überlasst ihr ihn der Pein,/Denn alle Schuld rächt sich auf Erden.
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Please note that the 7th volume of the "Hamburger Ausgabe", though titled "Romane und Novellen", contains "Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre" only and is therefore correctly combined!
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Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, a novel of self-realization greatly admired by the Romantics, has been called the first Bildungsroman and has had a tremendous influence on the history of the German novel. The story centers on Wilhelm, a young man living in the mid-1700s who strives to break free from the restrictive world of economics and seeks fulfillment as an actor and playwright. Along with Eric Blackall's fresh translation of the work, this edition contains notes and an afterword by the translator that aims to put this novel into historical and artistic perspective for twentieth-century readers while showing how it defies categorization.

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