9781631494895 198

Goethe: Life as a Work of Art


Rüdiger Safranski (Author), David Dollenmayer (Translator)

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This sterling biography of Germany’s greatest writer presents Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as if we are seeing him for the first time.

Here, Rüdiger Safranski sets his sights on the writer considered the Shakespeare of German literature. Goethe (1749–1832) awakened a burgeoning German nation and the European continent with his electrifying novel The Sorrows of Young Werther. Safranski scoured Goethe’s oeuvre, relying on primary sources as well as his correspondence with contemporaries and their comments to one another, to produce an illuminating portrait of the avatar of the Romantic era. Set against the cultural and political turmoil of Europe in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Goethe, who intersected with almost every great figure of his age, is thrillingly re-created here. As Safranski shows, Goethe’s greatest creation, even in comparison to his masterpiece Faust, was his own life.


“Safranski has written an outstanding biography, one that can be enjoyed by both scholars and general readers... he brilliantly captures Goethe’s perpetual incipience... Goethe has been lucky, on this occasion, with both his biographer and his translator.” — Literary Review

“... fresh and authentic-feeling read.” — The Economist

“In this expansive biography, Safranski, a philosopher and historian, mixes narrative and commentary with the great poet’s own words, from celebrated verse to obscure correspondence. Safranski’s strength lies in his ability to blend artistic analysis with swift, sharp renderings of various artists, thinkers, pietists, lovers, and plundering solders who shaped Goethe. His portrait of the prolific genius leaves the reader with lasting awe, even envy.” — The New Yorker

“Enthralling…Rüdiger Safranski makes the reader fall madly in love with Goethe again.” — Ijoma Mangold, Die Zeit

“Safranski is precise on the philosophical questions that dominated the life of a genius and his illustrious peers but the lessons for the many are outlined in a simple, engaging style... [his] achievement is to stir the most poignant of contrasting emotions.” — The Herald

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