Cover image for Goethe : life as a work of art
Goethe : life as a work of art
Safranski, Rüdiger author.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Goethe: Kunstwerk des Lebens. English
Publication Information:
New York : Liveright Publishing Corporation, [2017]
Physical Description:
xxvi, 651 pages : illustration ; 25 cm
A biography of the "German Shakespeare" draws on letters, diaries, notebooks, and correspondence to create a comprehensive picture of the writer's genius.

"This sterling biography of Germany's greatest writer presents Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as if we are seeing him for the first time. The work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe has reverberated through two and a half centuries, altering the course of literature in ways both grand and intimate. No other writer so completely captivated the intellectual life of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Europe, putting into language the anxieties and ambitions of a civilization on the cusp of modernity. A literary celebrity by the age of twenty-five, Goethe, who was born in Frankfurt in 1749, attracted the adulation and respect of the greatest scientists, politicians, composers, and philosophers of his day. Schoolboys dressed like his fictional characters. Napoleon read his first novel obsessively. He was an astoundingly prolific writer, a master of many genres, from poetry to scientific treatises, from novels like the tragic Sorrows of Young Werther to dramatic works like Faust. Indeed, Goethe's unparalleled literary output would come to define the Romantic age. Rüdiger Safranski's Goethe: Life as a Work of Art is the first definitive biography in a generation to tell the larger-than-life story of the writer considered to be the Shakespeare of German literature. Drawing upon the trove of letters, diaries, and notebooks Goethe left behind, as well as correspondence and criticism from Goethe's contemporaries, Safranski weaves a rich tale of Europe in the throes of revolution and of the man whose ideas heralded a new era. Safranski's monumental biography is a careful survey of Goethe's wide-ranging genius. Beyond his incredible literary gifts, Goethe was intensely interested in natural science and took seriously his official post as a statesman, working tirelessly to ensure that the working poor received wages and daily bread. With grace and nuance, Safranski crafts a portrait of Goethe's inner life that illuminates both his written work and the turmoil and triumphs of his era. Safranski shows that reading Goethe affords not simply an encounter with a literary virtuoso but an opportunity to develop a deeper appreciation of the human condition. Goethe was writing in the midst of a dramatic and bloody time for Europe: the revolutions in France and America overturned the old regimes and introduced new ways of thinking about the world. Set against this backdrop, Goethe's life and work serve as an essential touchstone for the birth of the modern age. But as Safranski ultimately shows, Goethe's greatest creation was not only his literary masterpieces but his very life." -- Publisher's description
General Note:
Translated from the German.
A difficult birth with fortunate consequences -- Living large in Leipzig -- The aftermath of Leipzig -- Piety and Kätchen recede -- Jung-Stilling -- The lawyer -- Goethe's busy idleness -- A portrait of the young Goethe -- Making poetic use of one's own life -- Confelia's misfortune -- Complications at court -- My writing has become subordinated to life -- More sturm and drang visitors : Klinger and Kaufmann -- A farce on the sublime : The triumph of sentimentalism -- The idea of purity -- Peace and granite -- Should he stay in Weimar? -- The Italian journey : no forwarding address -- Return to Weimar -- The revolution, this most terrible of all events -- Goethe gathers his circle around him -- Writing for Die Horen -- Herrmann and Dorothea -- The clogged springs of poetry -- Among the romantics -- Mourning Schiller -- Pandora or Goethe's double mask -- Theater squabble : a first clash with Karoline Jagemann -- Leave-takings : Anna Amalia and Goethe's mother -- Political events cast long shadows -- West-eastern divan and poetry as a life force -- Memory work -- Faust : the work of a lifetime finished at last -- Eckermann and Goethe's other assistants -- Final reflection : becoming who you are.
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