Monday, December 31, 2007

The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Years and years ago, I remember reading a study done by some graduate students who tried to measure the IQs of historical and literary figures. The study included number and length of works, lifespan, vocabulary, and a few other points I do not recall. However, I do remember that Goethe was declared the smartest person, Samuel Johnson was second, and Shakespeare third. I would give anything to find that study.

My first encounter after this was in German class in college when we tried to translate some of Goethe’s poetry. That was fun…NOT!

Years later (before graduate school) I came across some of his prose and, of course Faust. I really liked his stuff, and I got a copy of Young Werther, but it was lost until recently. I decided to end the year with Goethe.

The story is extremely emotional, without being maudlin. I found myself feeling sorry for the young man, and it wasn’t until I read the introduction to this edition that I came to realize how autobiographical this novel is.

If you like the image of 18th century enlightenment figures arguing philosophy, religion, politics, and, most importantly, love and romance, you will like this novel. I can see them in their waist coats, powdered wigs, and knee stockings, walking in a park with canes, discussing these weighty issues. Five stars (How could I give the smartest person who ever lived anything less?)
Thus ends 2007.
--Chiron, 12/31/07 9:08 PM, CST.

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