The Sorrows of Young Werther was Goethe's first major success, turning him from an unknown into a celebrated author practically overnight. Napoleon Bonaparte considered it one of the great works of European literature. He thought so highly of it that he wrote a soliloquy in Goethe's style in his youth and carried Werther with him on his campaigning to Egypt. It also started the phenomenon known as the "Werther-Fieber" ("Werther Fever") which caused young men throughout Europe to dress in the clothing style described for Werther in the novel.
Werther made Goethe one of the first international literary celebrities. Towards the end of his life, a personal visit to Weimar became crucial to any young man's tour of Europe. Werther was an important novel of the Sturm und Drang period in German literature, and influenced the later Romantic literary movement.
Public Domain (P)2012 Trout Lake Media
Girls, how many times have you had this, or a similar, conversation?
Him: But, why?
You: Because, I just don't like you that way.
Him: But how do you know? You haven't even given me a chance.
This is usually followed by begging and pleading, late night phone calls "just to hear your voice" and random flowers showing up at your doorstep. It would seem that boys haven't changed much in a couple hundred years. Or maybe it's just me and I shouldn't have dated all those moody artists in college.
The above is the basic story in this book. It was written in 1774 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. This book was an artistic expression of his own life. He had become infatuated with a woman named Charlotte, who rejected him and married someone else. The Sorrows of Young Wether is an epistolary novel, written in letters, all from the main character, Werther, to his good friend, Wilhelm. The letters read like a diary, becoming increasingly disturbed as Wether's hopes of winning over Charlotte become more remote.
Jim Donaldson is a great narrator. His performance becomes more and more emotional as the book progresses, following along with the characters moods, until he sounds like he's a crying, blubbering mess. He makes you really see the emotions. But it is somewhat uncomfortable to listen to.
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
This was an interesting and a very influential example of Storm & Stress proto-romanticism and of early Goethe. The narration was also very good, but I did not find this work as timeless or moving as Faust or later classical romantic novels. I found the characters and situations quite overdone, like an eighteenth century soap opera. If you like flawed and tragic romantic heroes perhaps you will enjoy this story. I really liked the brief Ossian poems near the end. I am glad I listened to this, but only for the literary, cultural and historical aspects.
For a meditative, melancholy book that inspired copycat suicides in its heyday -- nearly two an a half centuries ago -- this book absolutely holds up.
Literature and art of all kinds in this vein risk coming off as petulant, whiny, and -- in modern parlance -- "emo"; but this book avoids those pitfalls and achieves -- and maintains -- an insightful, touching, and brilliant narrative.
Timeless and heartbreakingly relatable.
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