History in Review
The Sorrows of Young Werther
By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Dover Thrift Editions. Translation by Thomas Carlyle and R. D. Boylan. (Dover Publications, Mineola, New York: 2002. Pg. 88.) ISBN: 0-486-42455-3.
Reviewed by Simone Bonim - February 14, 2005
The Sorrows of Young Werther is a tragic story written by the literary genius Johann Wolfgang von Goethe whose best known work is perhaps, Faust. First published in 1774, this book became an instant 'bestseller' bringing fame and notoriety to the author when it became known that several readers committed suicide after reading this book. Originally written in German, this edition of The Sorrows of Young Werther is based upon the translations of the text by Thomas Carlyle and R. D. Boylan. Carlyle's 1827 introduction to the text is also included in this edition.
In brief, Werther is a sensitive young man who is in love with a married woman who rejects him. This romantic tragedy follows Werther's internal struggle to come to terms with his obsessive feelings of love for this girl, and the depression that he spiraled down into after being rejected by her. The story is told primarily through letters written by Werther to his friend, with a few scenes told from the viewpoint of other characters.
This haunting story shadows the musing of a young artist as he tackles the age old issues of what is the meaning of life, death, and most importantly - love. It is a story of the need for redemption and the pain of unrequited love. It is also a story about how unreciprocated love can have a destructive effect. This is a very short book, only 88 pages in this edition, yet within this short space Goethe has created an unforgettable, heart wrenching story that will haunt you for days to come - and then draw you back to reread this oft overlooked masterpiece.
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