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Elective Affinities by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Review

Title: Elective Affinities

Author: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

First published January 1, 1809

272 pages, Paperback

ISBN: 9780192837769 (ISBN10: 0192837761)

Rating: 3.7


Written by the renowned literary giant Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Elective Affinities is a profound exploration of the complexities of marriage and passion. This newly published edition brings together four individuals whose fates become intertwined in a gripping and inescapable manner.

Through the characters’ struggles, Goethe poses thought-provoking questions about free will and the consequences of suppressing one’s true nature. The novel’s haunting portrayal of the destructive forces that can arise from denying one’s own desires is as relevant today as it was when first written.

About the Author

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a renowned German writer and scientist, dedicated 50 years of his life to writing his two-part dramatic poem Faust, which was published in 1808 and 1832. He was also involved in scientific research, particularly in botany, and held various governmental positions.

George Eliot hailed him as “Germany’s greatest man of letters” and the last polymath. His works spanned across literature, theology, and humanism.

His literary works were a part of the Weimar classicism movement that coincided with Enlightenment, sentimentality, Sturm und Drang, and Romanticism. He was also the author of scientific texts that influenced Darwin’s plant morphology studies.

Despite his significant impact on German philosophy and the generation of Kant and Hegel, he refrained from practicing philosophy in the rarefied sense.

Goethe had a keen interest in the literatures of various nations and originated the concept of Weltliteratur, meaning “world literature.” His influence spread across Europe and inspired music, drama, poetry, and philosophy for the next century. He is considered one of the most important writers in the German language and a significant thinker in western culture.

At the beginning of his career, he pondered painting as his true vocation, and towards the end of his life, he believed that his work in optics would be his lasting legacy.

Editoral Review

Elective Affinities by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is a classic novel first published on January 1, 1809, that explores the complexities of human relationships and social hierarchies. Goethe is a renowned German author, best known for his literary masterpiece, Faust.

In Elective Affinities, he demonstrates a mastery of character development and plot construction, making this novel a timeless classic that transcends time and place. Set in rural Germany in the early nineteenth century, the novel follows the lives of four main characters: Eduard and Charlotte, a married couple; Ottilie, the young orphan girl Eduard brings to live with them; and the charming Captain, who enters their lives and upsets their social balance.

The novel centers on the notion of “elective affinities,” or the idea that humans are naturally attracted to certain people, objects, or environments. As the plot unfolds, the characters’ desires and actions intersect, leading to unexpected and tragic consequences.

Goethe uses the characters as archetypes to explore themes of love, duty, morality, and social class. His writing style is fluid and lyrical, bringing the rural landscape to life and evoking the characters’ emotional states with ease.

In terms of historical and cultural significance, Elective Affinities reflects the social norms and values of the period in which it was written. The concept of elective affinities was prevalent in the Romantic era, and Goethe was a key figure in this literary movement.

The novel also critiques the rigidity of social class structures in early nineteenth-century Germany, highlighting the challenges faced by women and the lower classes. In terms of critical analysis, Elective Affinities is a beautifully crafted novel that showcases Goethe’s literary prowess.

The characters are complex and relatable, and their relationships are nuanced and layered. Goethe’s literary devices, such as foreshadowing and symbolism, are used expertly to heighten the tension and emphasize the thematic concerns.

However, the pacing of the novel may be slow for contemporary readers, and the plot may seem predictable at times. Additionally, some readers may find the portrayal of gender roles and societal norms to be outdated and problematic.

Overall, Elective Affinities is a classic novel that still resonates with modern readers. Its themes of love, duty, and societal norms are universal and timeless.

For fans of classic literature, this novel is a must-read. I would give this novel a 4.5 out of 5 rating, based on its exceptional writing, character development, and thematic concerns.

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