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Book Title: As Afinidades Electivas|
The author of the book: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Edition: Bertrand Editora
Date of issue: January 2017
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 15.61 MB
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Reader ratings: 5.5
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What a very strange novel! It’s extraordinarily hybrid. One minute you are reading an aristocratic comedy of manners; the next, a philosophical essay; the next, a brooding, proto-symbolist, mythopoetic exploration of the workings of fate. I loved reading it for that reason, in the measured, twenty-thirty page doses that are all that my workload permits at the moment. I never had the least sense, from one day to the next, which Elective Affinities was going to show up.
That makes Goethe’s novel sound disunified, I realize, but one of the most remarkable things about it is that it isn’t. The mad mix of elements actually does fuse together; it’s like one of those experimental recipes combining unlikely ingredients that defeat all odds and actually work in the pan (v. The Flavor Thesaurus.) I didn’t feel that two thirds of the way through through the novel. At that point, Goethe seemed to have spiraled out of a tightly, almost geometrically, composed novel of adultery into a series of interesting, but disconnected vignettes (the Architect and his tombs and chapel; Luciane and her peculiar parlor games; Ottilie’s oblique diary musings.) The final episodes, however, strange as they are, bring the whole thing together—although that doesn’t detract from the novel’s ultimate elusiveness, a quality brought out well in this very well observed article I found online in The Paris Review: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/20....
From what I can gather about the reception of this novel, it has suffered very much from being read through a biographical lens (speculations about which of Goethe’s various love interests is represented in the relationship of Eduard and Ottilie, etc.) This couldn’t interest me less. Goethe was sixty when he wrote it, though, and one thing I did note was a preoccupation with death and memorialisation and legacy. This comes to the fore especially in the remarkable final scenes, but it is present throughout. Charlotte gets into trouble re-landscaping the village churchyard, such as to detract from the role of the graves as memorials to the dead as individuals. The Architect plunders ancient tombs and turns their grave wares into objects of collection and study. And the most fully described of the ridiculous tableaux vivants into which Luciane bullies the company is themed around the figure of the ancient queen Artemisia of Caria, who became a living monument for her husband Mausolus, drinking his ashes: a scene that manages to be, at the same time, satirical and deeply enmeshed with the novel’s most earnest philosophical themes.
Another thing I found very interesting in the novel was its treatment of place. It is very concentrated geographically. Apart from one dramatic scene in an inn (which only serves to underline the impossibility of getting away), all the action in the novel takes place within the—admittedly broad—confines of Eduard and Charlotte’s estate, with its old Hall, its new house, its tied village to be kept in order, its church, and its extensive grounds, ripe for landscaping and remodeling on the most fashionable and philosophically correct “English” manner. The novel reminded me a little of Jane Austen in the way in which it uses landscape improvement as moral metaphor, but Goethe’s use of the metaphor is much more complex and less transparent. In a way, the impulse to neaten and reorder and aesthetisize and “tame” Nature clearly maps onto the novel’s concern with marriage in relation to romantic love. But there are also potent links with the themes of death and of memoralization as an attempt to transcend death. Landscape gardening looks to the future, and the distant future, as an English visitor who is an expert on the art observes; it is a legacy that Eduard and Charlotte might hope to see cherished and appreciated by their son. As a conversation between Charlotte and the Assistant reminds us, however, that is not always how things happen. And in fact, through a horrible irony (view spoiler)[ their son, born in “marital adultery” and a kind of mysterious changeling, drowns as an infant in the estate’s relandscaped lake. (hide spoiler)]
One last thing—we still compliment contemporary male novelists for sensitive portrayals of women, as if this were a remarkable feat, but I completely take my hat off to Goethe in this regard. Ottilie, for me, ultimately floundered under the huge weight of symbolic resonance she has to carry, but she is very far from a stereotype; and Charlotte I thought was beautifully realized as a character and an excellent foil to her man-child husband (even though the novel becomes progressively less interested in her as it transitions from psychological realism to a more Gothic-romantic-melodramatic mode.)
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Read information about the authorJohann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer. George Eliot called him "Germany's greatest man of letters... and the last true polymath to walk the earth." Goethe's works span the fields of poetry, drama, literature, theology, humanism, and science. Goethe's magnum opus, lauded as one of the peaks of world literature, is the two-part drama Faust. Goethe's other well-known literary works include his numerous poems, the Bildungsroman Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship and the epistolary novel The Sorrows of Young Werther.
Goethe was one of the key figures of German literature and the movement of Weimar Classicism in the late 18th and early 19th centuries; this movement coincides with Enlightenment, Sentimentality (Empfindsamkeit), Sturm und Drang, and Romanticism. The author of the scientific text Theory of Colours, he influenced Darwin with his focus on plant morphology. He also long served as the Privy Councilor ("Geheimrat") of the duchy of Weimar.
Goethe is the originator of the concept of Weltliteratur ("world literature"), having taken great interest in the literatures of England, France, Italy, classical Greece, Persia, Arabic literature, amongst others. His influence on German philosophy is virtually immeasurable, having major impact especially on the generation of Hegel and Schelling, although Goethe himself expressly and decidedly refrained from practicing philosophy in the rarefied sense.
Goethe's influence spread across Europe, and for the next century his works were a major source of inspiration in music, drama, poetry and philosophy. Goethe is considered by many to be the most important writer in the German language and one of the most important thinkers in Western culture as well. Early in his career, however, he wondered whether painting might not be his true vocation; late in his life, he expressed the expectation that he would ultimately be remembered above all for his work in optics.
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