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German poet, dramatist, novelist, translator, scientist and musician, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) is universally recognized as a towering figure in world literature.


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German poet, dramatist, novelist, translator, scientist and musician, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) is universally recognized as a towering figure in world literature.

30 review for The Autobiography: Truth and poetry: from my own life

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Poetry and Truth, it says in the English translation. Goethe chose “Dichtung und Wahrheit” as the title for his original autobiography, and it would never have occurred to me to translate the word ”Dichtung” with “poetry” in this context. It means fiction, or literature in general as well, and his idea with the title is explained in the beginning of his monumental 1000-page-reflection on his own life and achievements. Arguing that an autobiography is concerned with an individual person in a speci Poetry and Truth, it says in the English translation. Goethe chose “Dichtung und Wahrheit” as the title for his original autobiography, and it would never have occurred to me to translate the word ”Dichtung” with “poetry” in this context. It means fiction, or literature in general as well, and his idea with the title is explained in the beginning of his monumental 1000-page-reflection on his own life and achievements. Arguing that an autobiography is concerned with an individual person in a specific time and environment, Goethe raises the question whether it is even possible to know your own history. Does it not require some distance to gain enough reflective power to judge a life’s achievement within society? On the other hand, the individual himself is the only one with all the “facts”. Goethe’s aim, knowing of the inherent contradiction, is to interpret his own life through the major events and developments he experienced, while admitting that every interpretation contains a fictional element, a dramatisation of the randomness and chaos of everyday occurrences. Every memory is a deliberate choice. Goethe being the literary giant of his days, and knowing the major representatives of art, literature and academia very well, the autobiography reads like a journey through the minds of the era later labelled “Goethezeit” in Germany. We meet his favourite artists and writers, we follow his travels to different art galleries, we encounter his literary characters in his thoughts, thus putting them into the context of Goethe’s own life. Of course, a fiction of his life is established through careful omission of facts as well. Goethe sticks to the path he has set for himself: a biography explaining his artistic, literary and scientific development. He delves into private life and circumstances occasionally, but he keeps a certain distance, sometimes brightened by a strong sense of humour. His very first paragraphs are a great example of his approach to the habits of his era. He proudly announces the day and time of his birth, adding - tongue-in-cheek - that astrologers were immediately convinced that he was born under an especially lucky constellation of stars. Putting it into the context of the actual circumstances of his birth, he ponders that the lucky constellation probably saved his life, as it counterbalanced the clumsiness of the midwife, who almost killed him within the first hour of his life! Luckily, the stars prevented human failure from depriving us of the life of Goethe, and he lived to write his plays, stories, essays, poetry and biography. “Dichtung und Wahrheit” is highly entertaining, wonderfully ironic, and erudite and eloquent, and a source for bibliophiles and art lovers alike. When Goethe talks about his own art collection, or artist friends’ work, or his own attempts at drawing, he always delivers the professor’s honest feedback in the next paragraph, thus offering both the genius’ passion for beauty and the lecturer’s rational appraisal. His reflections on Voltaire, Diderot, Montaigne and Lavater are personal, yet brilliantly accurate, and he does not shy away from telling stories of controversies surrounding his own work. His anecdote on how the ending of Werther was changed, into a happy marriage between Werther and Lotte, is priceless, as is his own need to get back to finished work and dramatize it, to look at it from different perspectives, while writing witty dialogues. He is always both artist and analyst. It is a slow read, and one that requires a lot of background knowledge to fully enjoy. The Enlightenment thinkers and artists are vital parts of Goethe’s life. As for the truthfulness of his account, his interpretations and poetical choices highlight his priorities in life, but they are nothing like the randomness and arrogance with which many people treat truth today. His fiction contains more truth than our facts. And he ends with a beautiful anecdote on saying goodbye before embarking on new adventures. Quoting his own fictional character Egmont, he gives the reader food for thought beyond the thousand and one (or so) pages of wisdom contained in “Dichtung und Wahrheit”: “Kind! Kind! nicht weiter! Wie von unsichtbaren Geistern gepeitscht, gehen die Sonnenpferde der Zeit mit unsers Schicksals leichtem Wagen durch; und uns bleibt nichts, als, mutig gefaßt, die Zügel festzuhalten und bald rechts bald links, vom Steine hier vom Sturze da, die Räder wegzulenken. Wohin es geht, wer weiß es? Erinnert er sich doch kaum, woher er kam.”

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chris Shank

    This book was a drag...on an old cigarette...that someone else smoked...a week ago. I read 200 pages before I realized that I was begging for it to be end, or for me to run out of oxygen. Only the most die-hard fans of Goethe should read this, and THAT only if they are ready to learn in depth about the social-historical milieu of his times. Dude Goethe took about 50 pages to describe the ceremonies of the coronation of a king when he (Goethe) was a youth. He said he used to memorize and describe This book was a drag...on an old cigarette...that someone else smoked...a week ago. I read 200 pages before I realized that I was begging for it to be end, or for me to run out of oxygen. Only the most die-hard fans of Goethe should read this, and THAT only if they are ready to learn in depth about the social-historical milieu of his times. Dude Goethe took about 50 pages to describe the ceremonies of the coronation of a king when he (Goethe) was a youth. He said he used to memorize and describe to himself out loud the details of trains passing by so he could later repeat them to a girl he was crushing on. Really...he tried to win her over by describing in detail a passing train. Lame. Seriously though, I wanted more of Goethe, and less of his environment.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad

    رغم ميلي إلى السيرة الذاتية , كانت لي تجربة مختلفة مع هذا الكتاب , فلم يكن الكاتب يسرد وقائع حياته بشكل فارغ , بل كان يحرص على ان تحمل كل واقعة مما اختاره لنا , معنى .. المعنى , حيث نفقده في كثير من الأعمال , عندما تتكرر الأحداث في روتين إنساني خانق .. يختفي .. بعكس هنا .

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I read this in German, and as you can see it took me an age! While this isn't Goethe's greatest book, it is certainly a moving and informative one. I found the first and fourth parts particularly affecting. The first part describes his childhood in Frankfurt, in wonderful detail, weaving together stories of his life at home and in town with sketches of the historical background. Goethe says that a biography should show the relationship between life and history, and this first part of the biograp I read this in German, and as you can see it took me an age! While this isn't Goethe's greatest book, it is certainly a moving and informative one. I found the first and fourth parts particularly affecting. The first part describes his childhood in Frankfurt, in wonderful detail, weaving together stories of his life at home and in town with sketches of the historical background. Goethe says that a biography should show the relationship between life and history, and this first part of the biography certainly does that. The fourth part describes the final phase of Goethe's youth, as a young famous writer, with The Sorrows of Young Werther and Götz von Berglichingen under his belt. It is that beautiful phase of life we all pass, rich in possibilities, without a settled role in the world, when we must decide. Goethe's account of his pivotal decision to move to Weimar is lovely. The middle sections are less captivating as literature, but are extremely interesting as history. Early in life, Goethe formed a range of great artistic and literary friendships, and travelled and studied in a range of middle European cities. His account of this part of his youth is effectively a vivid literary history of his Germany, bound up with his own search for the ideal, and history more broadly. It might not be for everyone—even the great Goethe fan, Henry Handel Richardson, found it rather dry—but it is certainly has its own kind of greatness, and Goethe is always a far-sighted and deeply humane writer. This is possibly the least egotistical autobiography ever written, and what it may lack in intensity it makes up for in wisdom.

  5. 4 out of 5

    E.J. Matze

    This is a very honest person trying to make sense of the world and the sometimes impressive nature and really thinking about it (loves to write).

  6. 5 out of 5

    Liedzeit

    Okay, den dritten Stern gibt es aus Respekt für unseren größten Dichter und Denker. Denn eigentlich ist das hier ebenso weitschweifig wie fade. Und das liegt nicht nur daran, dass man seinerzeit etwas mehr zum Fabulieren neigte. Verglichen mit den Memoiren Casanovas ist der mangelnde Witz und die Unfähigkeit, den Personen und Ereignissen etwas Leben einzuhauchen einigermaßen erstaunlich. "Steichen wir nicht in einem Buche Stellen an, die sich unmittelbar auf uns beziehen?" fragt er. In der Tat. U Okay, den dritten Stern gibt es aus Respekt für unseren größten Dichter und Denker. Denn eigentlich ist das hier ebenso weitschweifig wie fade. Und das liegt nicht nur daran, dass man seinerzeit etwas mehr zum Fabulieren neigte. Verglichen mit den Memoiren Casanovas ist der mangelnde Witz und die Unfähigkeit, den Personen und Ereignissen etwas Leben einzuhauchen einigermaßen erstaunlich. "Steichen wir nicht in einem Buche Stellen an, die sich unmittelbar auf uns beziehen?" fragt er. In der Tat. Und viel habe ich nicht unterstrichen. Das hier: "Man kann es daher jenen Denkern nicht übelnehmen, welche die unednlich kunstreiche, aber doch genau beschränkte Technik jener Geschöpfe [der Tiere] für ganz maschinenmäßig erklärten." (S. 610) Die Beschreibung der frühen Jugend ist noch am interessantesten, wir erfahren wie er Sprachen lernte, Fechtunterricht bekam und die Art und Weise, wie er seine geistige Überlegenheit herausstellt ist subtil genug. Leider sind seine Liebesabenteuer dann eher auch langweilig und man hofft, endlich etwas mehr über Dichtung und weniger Wahrheit zu erfahren. Aber selbst wenn er über den Erfolg des Werthers schreibt, berührt das nicht sehr. Auch erfahren wir viel zu viel über Männer wie Lavater und Basedow und zu wenig über Herder oder Klopstock. Am interessantesten seine Ausführungen zum Glauben und seine Entwicklung vom unzweifelnden Protestanten zum Pantheisten durch Einfluss Spinozas. "Beim Glauben, sagte ich, kommt es darauf an, daß man glaubt, was man glaube, sei völlig gleichgültig." (S. 555) Und mit dem Wissen sei es genau umgekehrt. Da kommt es nicht darauf, dass man weiß, sondern was man weiß, und wie gut und wieviel man weiß.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    Die erste Hälfte fand ich sehr spannend und inspirierend. Goethes Leben ist Beispiel und Vorbild, etwas, woran man sich hochziehen kann, selbst, wenn man eine etwas andere Stoßrichtung hat. Da ich noch mit keiner Biographie über Goethe vertraut bin, vermag ich nicht zu sagen, wo die Grenzen von Wahrheit und Dichtung hier verlaufen. Ich las nur irgendwo, dass Goethe bei seiner Autobiographie gerne auch ein paar Sachen "erlogen" hat. Besonders gefiel mir, seinen Bildungsweg nachzuvollziehen, seine e Die erste Hälfte fand ich sehr spannend und inspirierend. Goethes Leben ist Beispiel und Vorbild, etwas, woran man sich hochziehen kann, selbst, wenn man eine etwas andere Stoßrichtung hat. Da ich noch mit keiner Biographie über Goethe vertraut bin, vermag ich nicht zu sagen, wo die Grenzen von Wahrheit und Dichtung hier verlaufen. Ich las nur irgendwo, dass Goethe bei seiner Autobiographie gerne auch ein paar Sachen "erlogen" hat. Besonders gefiel mir, seinen Bildungsweg nachzuvollziehen, seine erste Liebeserfahrung und einen Eindruck von dem sozialen Umfeld zu bekommen, in dem er sich bewegte. Die historischen Umstände des siebenjährigen Krieges interessierten mich nur sekundär. Gleichwohl war interessant, wie die Einquartierung der Franzosen im Hause Goethes ablief. Ich bin gespannt auf den dritten und vierten Teil und habe auch Lust anschließend eine Biographie (vielleicht jene von Safranski) Goethes zu lesen.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Eduardo Collado

    Siento muchísimo tener que decir que este libro es un tostón insufrible. Es una medio biografía de Goethe que a mí me ha resultado muy pesado. He tardado meses en poder leer esto y al final ha sido un esfuerzo mastodóntico. No había leído nada de Goethe y la verdad es que después de esto no sé si seré capaz. Quizás Fausto se salve, seguro que si. Goethe tuvo que haber sido en su juventud bastante pedante.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Araceli Rotaeche

    Maravillosa autobiografía. Me encantó conocer la infancia y adolescencia de este grandioso escritor, poeta y científico alemán. Pasear con él por Frankfurt, Leipzig, Estrasburgo, Weimar y otros lugares y ciudades fue interesante. Me encanta recorrer otras épocas a través de personajes que han dejado huella en su paso por la vida. Y Goethe lo narra estupendamente...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Helen Bendix

    A tough read. Very tough. a) incredibly long, b) difficult to tell what is Dichtung and what is Wahrheit, c) oh my god the tangents. Like, yay, Goethe summarizes the bible. Goethe tells you about Shakespeare etc. etc. Very helpful for literary history, very difficult to read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Juan Sobejano

    Libro inmenso, pero al mismo tiempo difícil. No porque sea de lenguaje complicado, sino por su minuciosidad, la importancia que da a las pequeñas cosas. En cierto modo me recuerda a El Mundo de Ayer, de Zweig

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Roberts

    I like it.... ...especially the Goethe's descriptions of his early years in Frankfurt. The city becomes a character in the early parts of the bio. Enjoy!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Hakan Guveli

    Yazarın değişik zamanlardaki anılarının toplandığı bir kitap. Beklediğim keyfi alamadım tavsiye etmem,bazen çok sıkıcı oluyor

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Masri

    Unexpectedly frank, approachable and seemingly modern in presentation. Also an interesting record of the times in which he lived and those who made history.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Prabhat sharma

    An autobiography : Truth and fiction relating to my Life" (Kindle edition) Johann Wolfgang von Geother: Geothe has written about life of common men and aristocrats in his time in Germany, France and neighboring European countries. His grand father and father were a judicial officers, therefore, he and his sister got the opportunity to move in parties of nobles and attended fairs. He has written about being educated at home and in a school. Both these experiences are worth reading. He has mention An autobiography : Truth and fiction relating to my Life" (Kindle edition) Johann Wolfgang von Geother: Geothe has written about life of common men and aristocrats in his time in Germany, France and neighboring European countries. His grand father and father were a judicial officers, therefore, he and his sister got the opportunity to move in parties of nobles and attended fairs. He has written about being educated at home and in a school. Both these experiences are worth reading. He has mentioned that reading of books, dancing and learning musical instruments was followed by children. Dance teachers were thorough. His daughters helped the students to dance. the book is of historical importance.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Manfred

    Rückblick auf das eigene Leben, zeitweise sehr betuhlich und aggregiert, gbt manchmal mehr vom 'alten Goethe' preis, als von der beschriebenen Zeit. Man merkt, dass auch solche 'großen Geister' 'Kinder ihrer Zeit' sind, wenn sie Menschen und andere Künstler beschreiben, die heute (2015) kaum die gleiche Reputation haben wie damals, sei es die vielen erwachsenen Zeitgenossen der Jugend in Frankfurt, die in ihrer Aufzählung ohne Bedeutung sind. Die Schilderung besonderer Situationen habe ich in ih Rückblick auf das eigene Leben, zeitweise sehr betuhlich und aggregiert, gbt manchmal mehr vom 'alten Goethe' preis, als von der beschriebenen Zeit. Man merkt, dass auch solche 'großen Geister' 'Kinder ihrer Zeit' sind, wenn sie Menschen und andere Künstler beschreiben, die heute (2015) kaum die gleiche Reputation haben wie damals, sei es die vielen erwachsenen Zeitgenossen der Jugend in Frankfurt, die in ihrer Aufzählung ohne Bedeutung sind. Die Schilderung besonderer Situationen habe ich in ihrer Ausführlichkeit als Wertung gelesen. Spannend ist die Lektüre, wenn sie mit Biographien vergleicht. Ich habe die 'Biographie' von R. Safranski mit großem Genuss gelesen.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Patricio

    El libro no es malo como tal, pero Goethe tarda hojas y hojas en describirte cosas no tan relevantes-interesantes, datos e información que no recordarás; aun así el libro cuenta con relatos memorables, cosas interesantes para el lector común. Solo verdaderos dedicados a Goethe y curiosos sin miedo a sus 500 páginas deberían leerlo.

  18. 5 out of 5

    John Poor

    Excellent autobiography, goethe provides the story for a great artist who is neither in great pain or dire straights. Well written and fun Merged review: Excellent autobiography, goethe provides the story for a great artist who is neither in great pain or dire straights. Well written and fun

  19. 5 out of 5

    Wittiyaa

    waduh teuing tah beres na iraha...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Look for another English language edition of Dichtung und Wahrheit. The translation was painful to read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joe Ahearn

    Big desert, few oases. Hard to believe the author of Faust could write a book as unrelentingly tedious as this one.

  22. 5 out of 5

    E.J. Matze

    This I very much like because the author is not crazy like most people but just loves to write and thinksabout it. ?He also contemplates nature and such and this in a very gentle, non-egoistic way.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bill J Winkel

  24. 4 out of 5

    Marco Caruso

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lotte

  26. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Vázquez

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mauricio Santoro

  28. 4 out of 5

    Christine

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eli

  30. 5 out of 5

    John Dougherty

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