“The Sorrows of Young Werther” by Wolfgang von Goethe

The Sorrows of Young Werther

(Author: Wolfgang von Goethe) + (Year: 1774) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Don’t ask about the cover, I don’t know…

I should start with the fact that Faust is one of my all-time favourite books. I think that it is just a literary masterpiece. The Sorrows of Young Werther, however…

I was saving this book, because having loved Faust, I obviously expected this to be something that I would adore. I waited until I had free time and then… I was hoping for it to just end. Both Goodreads reviews and even the book’s back cover totally spoiled the story, but to be honest, it was to be expected.

The language of Goethe is unquestionably beautiful. It had been a while since I read an old and so masterfully written book. 18th and 19th century literature just has this gravitas to itself. It usually paints the world beautifully, in detail and color. Goethe is a marvelous example of that. I could almost imagine the landscapes and taste the milk and bread and feel the characters’ presence.

This is where it ends, however.

Both the topic of the book and the characters felt foreign to me at the moment of reading. Had I read it in a moment of a broken heart, it might have resonated with me, simply because he has not made a breakthrough in explaining emotion, but just listed his own feelings. Therefore, I think it would be safer to assume that just because one understands the state of mind of the character or the atmosphere of the book, that should not be grounds to consider the book great. Stating mundane things in a beautiful language does not make them extraordinary, everyone can just explain their obsessions.

And speaking of, this is not a novel about love. It IS totally and completely about obsession. Because Werther is no Romeo and Lotte is no Juliet. And although he states many times that there is something below the surface in her behavior, I firmly believe that Lotte did not give a damn about him and she was just flattering herself that somebody likes her.

I also believe that Werther was completely delusional and annoyingly so. I have, indeed, met people who read so much more in their chosen ones’ behavior than there is. It is another rather obvious fact of life. In cases of unrequited love, they still attribute a lot of their own feelings to the object of their affections. There is none, as everyone else can see that. This is how I see Lotte’s treatment of Werther.

And more so, I found it quite annoying to read his romantic, overly-idealistic view of her. “Oh, she is cutting bread! I am in love!!!” Of course, it is different to judge romantic notions in that time period and in modern literature, but that does not mean that Werther was not sugar-coating the situation and Lotte, as a person.

Whereas, I, as the reader, found her to be very disagreeable, careless and even cruel. While Werther was obsessed to the point of becoming a stalker, kissing letters, guns, flowers and so on, she was just a childish coquette, who really did not care about anything but indulging her desire to be adored and worshiped.

Not to mention that the book gives the entirely wrong lesson about how to react in case of unrequited love.

In many of the other reviews I saw a poem by Thackeray about this book. It is VERY spoilery, so I suggest you only read it after you have read the book. It is hilarious.

I recommend this book to: the lovesick, the Emo teenagers and the overly dramatic.

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2 thoughts on ““The Sorrows of Young Werther” by Wolfgang von Goethe

  1. Michael J. Miller says:

    Your list of who to recommend this book to is one of the best lines I’ve ever read in a review. I love it! But…you know…not in a completely delusional, annoying, or obsessive sort of way :).

    Like

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