January-March Group Read - Faust by Goethe

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January-March Group Read - Faust by Goethe

Redigerat: jan 18, 2023, 8:25 am

Welcome to the January - March group read of Faust (part 1) by Johann von Goethe.

A little Wikipedia background on Goethe:

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German poet, playwright, novelist, scientist, statesman, theatre director, and critic. His works include plays, poetry, literature, and aesthetic criticism, as well as treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour. He is widely regarded as the greatest and most influential writer in the German language, his work having a profound and wide-ranging influence on Western literary, political, and philosophical thought from the late 18th century to the present day.

I wanted to read this work because I realized that I have read almost nothing from German literature in my life. This play is widely considered to be among the best (if not the best) work of literature to come from that country.

I decided to buy The Essential Goethe (sorry I don't know how to do links on LT) published by Princeton University Press. This volume contains many writings by Goethe, including a translation of Faust part 1 by John R. Williams. I can't speak to the fidelity of the translation but having just read the dedication and prelude I can say that Williams has achieved a pleasant rhythmic, rhyming, and somewhat Seussian quality. The language is contemporary which (to me) is somewhat off putting but not overly annoying.

To get us started, here are my thoughts on the dedication:
The dedication is beautiful and reminds me of the sort of invocation you see in Virgil/Homer/Milton but inverted. In this case the author seems to be looking inward for inspiration rather than invoking the aid of an outside force such as a muse. He is speaking to the spirits of his own past and his own thoughts and memories.

It occurs to me that I did not provide a synopsis of the story. It is Goethe's take on the classic "deal with the devil" story. Faust is a highly educated professor who is not content with the knowledge he has gained from studying nature and science. He wants more, and that's where the devil (Mephistopheles) comes in. My understanding is that this version has Goethe's own twist on the tale.

jan 17, 2023, 11:27 pm


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust

My intentions are to follow along rather than read along, but who knows what darkness lies in the hearts of men.

jan 23, 2023, 6:21 pm

>1 L.Bloom: Thanks for setting this up! I've been quite preoccupied with work lately, but Faust has been on my TBRs for a while now and I'd love to join, so hopefully I might be able to find some time within the next two months. *sigh*

I've shared the link on 75er's, but we should probably also post it to the group read planning thread here, in case others only check their starred topics and miss this one. Hoping for a small but good turnout. :)

mar 20, 2023, 8:51 am

This group read has been very quiet, but I keep Faust in my want-to-read-next list.
Hopefully, I'll be able to read it before the end of this month.

I'll read it in French, as I do not speak or read German, and as it is a re-read and I own two editions, I'll read the one I did not read last time. If at all possible, I intend to read soon after Doctor Faust by Christopher Marlowe.

>1 L.Bloom: Have you managed to read it?

mar 20, 2023, 5:03 pm

>4 raton-liseur: Yes indeed, it's actually quite a short read. I won't spoil anything for the group but I found the first half was exactly what I expected based on what I already knew about the Faust story. The second half however, takes a very strange turn...

I think I can say some things without giving away the story. The first half is set up as a sort of morality tale but it seems to not really pay off. The second half turns into a very different morality message that is frankly pretty off putting by today's sensibilities. I think I get the point Goethe is trying to make but I was expecting something a bit more profound.

If anyone wants more detail as to why I feel this play is rather over rated, feel free to message me.