The Sorrows of Young Werther (Modern Library)

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9780679643081: The Sorrows of Young Werther (Modern Library)

A Major New Translation

For more than two centuries the very title of this book has evoked the sensitivity of youth, the suffering of the artist, the idea of a hero too full of love to live. When it was first published in Germany, in 1774, The Sorrows of Young Werther created a sensation. Banned and condemned but embraced—especially by the young—it has continued to captivate.

Now Burton Pike’s startlingly new translation expresses as never before all the anguish, ideas, and ardor of this seminal, iconic novel. And his Introduction reveals both Goethe’s inspirations and his influence—on works ranging from Madame Bovary to Frankenstein and beyond.

Here is the classic story of Werther, a young man “seeking the infinite” in an art he cannot master and a woman he cannot have—the prototype of the Romantic hero in a work that anticipated the Romantic Age. Here is a bold new look at a masterpiece that has changed lives and, like its beloved hero, will never grow old.

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From the Back Cover:

"The world at once took possession of The Sorrows of Young Werther and it took possession of the world....It seemed as though the public in all countries, secretly and without their own knowledge, had been awaiting this very book by an unknown young man from a German Imperial city; that this book with revolutionary, liberating power emancipated the fettered yearnings of the civilized world. Napoleon, the iron man of destiny, had the French translation in his knapsack through Egyptian campaign. He claimed to have read it seven times."


--Thomas Mann

Translated by Elizabeth Mayer and Louise Brogan
Poems translated by W. H. Auden

About the Author:

JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE (1749–1832) was a novelist, poet, playwright, philosopher, and scientist. He wrote The Sorrows of Young Werther when he was just twenty-four. His enduring dramatic poem "Faust" took fifty-seven years to write and was published in its entirety only after Goethe’s death at eighty-three.

BURTON PIKE is professor emeritus of comparative literature at CUNY Graduate Center. A leading critic, scholar, and translator of German literature, he has written and edited books on Robert Musil, Thomas Mann, and many others, and was the editor and co-translator of Musil’s The Man With-out Qualities.

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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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