Cover image for Icon in love : a novel about Goethe
Icon in love : a novel about Goethe
Koch, Eric, 1919-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oakville, Ont. : Mosaic Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
200 pages : 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Goethe.the unquestioned master of German literature. Goethe.the creator of Faust, the first great work of literature in the spirit of modern times. Goethe.the legend.Now, Goethe is re-invented by Eric Koch. It is October 1992. Johann Wolfgang van Goethe, the poet, film maker, philosopher of nature, polymath and global celebrity of television and other media is now 73 years of age. He recieves a phone call from Stockholm, Sweden, informing him that he has been awarded, at last, the Nobel Prize for Literature. He is inclined at first, to refuse because the Nobel Prize committee has ignored him for many years. Ulrike von Levetzow, a 19 year old student in Stockholm for whom Goethe has a passion, persuades him to accept the Nobel Prize. Ulrike also happens to be the stepdaughter of the Head of the Homicide Squad. Goethe arrives in Stockholm. It is December. The Laureate for Medicine, Edward Graziano, confides to him that he has been poisoned- He knows by whom, and why, but he does not indentify the murderer. During the awards ceremony Graziano collapses and soon dies. Both Goethe and Ulrike's stepfather frantically search for a solution to the murder. Many of the characters in this mystery story are modelled on figures in Goethe's life.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

What if Goethe had been born in 1919? This question is posed by novelist (Kassandrus) and nonfiction author (The Brothers Hambourg) Koch, who was, in fact, born in 1919, and his answer takes the form of a murder mystery as well as a rumination on the politics of authorship. Koch's Goethe is a refugee in Switzerland during WWII who moves back to Germany afterward, becoming in this 20th century context the prophetic star author of Werther, Faust, The Elective Affinities, the poems. Koch engages in witty chronological reversals, for example, tracing the influence of Thomas Mann's Dr. Faustus on Faust. But Koch never penetrates his hero's cold facade, and so the trappings of modern celebrity‘his Faust as a rock opera, his popularity on TV shows‘are like so much glitter thrown on a bust. Goethe's infatuation, at 70, for 19-year-old Ulrike takes place around the time he wins the Nobel Prize, in October 1992. The murder plot unfolds at the media circus of the Stockholm ceremonies, the self-serving politics of which Koch farcically skewers. Koch gives us a cast of Nobel Prize winners, much like one of those English country house mysteries with all the suspects lined up in one place. The roster includes Edward Graziano, the honoree in medicine, who plays the contemptible character who is poisoned by another winner. The poison is nearly undetectable, but Graziano, before he dies, tells Goethe the truth, but doesn't give the identity of the saboteur. With Ulrike conveniently related to a top-ranking Swedish homicide detective, we go from Goethe, artist, to Goethe, sleuth. Koch's heavy hand with cross-references and a thick plot often overpower his characters' subtle romantic nuances and his ingenious historical recontextualization; in the end, this is too labored an effort to count as a true jeux d'esprit. German rights sold to Fischer Verlag. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Koch (Hilmar & Odette, McClelland & Stewart, 1996) has written an audacious novel about the "icon" of German literature. Goethe is reinvented as a poet of the 20th century, awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992. At the age of 73, the revered poet is now certain that love is what it takes to complete his long-awaited Faust, Part Two. He finds this love in a 19-year-old student, who persuades him to accept the prize despite his lack of interest. Soon after his arrival in Stockholm, Goethe finds himself unraveling the mystery behind the murder of one of the laureates. Drawing heavily on the facts of Goethe's life, this mystery is best suited to academic collections and those already familiar with Goethe's life and work. But although scholars may require less effort to fathom Koch's portrayal of Goethe, any reader can learn much here about the complexity of Goethe's genius, thanks to Koch's simple and eloquent writing.‘Mirela Roncevic, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.