Saturday, November 26, 2011

German Lit Month: Those Other Guys (and Girls)

So far this month, I've covered two Weimar-era works, with Thomas Mann and the Brothers Grimm yet to come. But what about those other German works of literature I've read before? (Some of these I read years ago, so my memory may be rusty...)

Faust, Part One by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1808)
When I read this, it became one of my favorite books. I now have a love for all things Faustian-myth inspired, like the English versions of The Monk and The Demon of Sicily, the film Phantom of the Paradise, and a bunch of other works I haven't read yet but really, really want to. I'm not sure what struck me the most about the play, but the fact that it's a play I can easily recall reading is a major point. I loved Goethe's writing, too. And Berlioz's "Hungarian March" is one of my favorite pieces to play on trombone.

Faust, Part Two by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1832)
If the first part of Faust made an impression on me, the second one didn't. The most interesting part was analyzing how Goethe's writing style and motifs changed in the decades between the two. I was rather upset that Faust appeared to forget Gretchen, going off and marrying another woman.

The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1774)
I was so not impressed by the novel while I was reading it. I've heard it was strong enough to inspire a few of its emotional male readers to commit suicide, but, personally, I found Werther to be whiny and selfish. Later, though, the novel turned out to be one of those where its greatness sinks into you afterwards. I'll probably end up re-reading it at some point.

The Madwoman on a Pilgrimage by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1821)
This is the last Goethe, I swear. The only thing I can even say about it is my super-short review from a few years ago, because I can't really remember anything about the book. "The three stories in this short book (excerpted from one of the Wilhelm Meister novels) were okay. They're definitely not my favorites of the little Goethe that I've read, but they are worth reading. The middle story, in particular, is a humorous love story that reminded me a bit of A Midsummer Night's Dream, while the two others are more pessimistic views of the trials of love and relationships." (By the way, this was one of my first reviews.)

Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche (1885)
I've actually never finished reading this one. I've attempted to on three (or four?) different occasions, but the farthest I've ever made it is page 70. Something about an "Overman" and a guy falling off a tightrope...Why have I never finished the book? I can't slow my reading down. I have to read it as a novel, meaning I don't take time to analyze and figure out the philosophical parts which are the purpose of its entire existence. I'll come back when I'm more mature.

Mephisto by Klaus Mann (1936)
As with After Midnight, which I read earlier this month, Mephisto is very much a reflection-of-its-times novel. I didn't enjoy it too much while I was reading it, but afterwards, I realized why it's still in print. Such novels are retrospectively great for what they reveal to us of the turbulent times during which they were written.

The Queen's Mirror: Fairy Tales by German Women, 1780-1900
As with most, if not all, anthologies, this one has some great pieces, some mediocre ones, and some that were just boring or too weird. It's definitely interesting and unique, though, and each story has its own flavor. I very much enjoyed reading the tales in the anthology and will probably return to it soon.

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