This book was brought to my attention by one of my dearest friends. You can find it in free forms and in other ebook editions. My friend had shared an interesting link about the publication of this novel and how it changed the society of the times. Young people aped young Werther’s dress and attitude, they wept and lived this young man’s trials, and some committed suicide as Werther did. Per the article, this book was banned for many years in several countries. It fired me to find and read it. The whole idea reminded me a bit of Rona Jaffe's 'Mazes and Monsters'.
As I read this short book of letters, I was intrigued by two different things:
First, the idea of writing a book as a letter is a very good one. One of my absolute all time forever favorite books, ‘Daddy Long Legs’ by Jean Webster, was written in letter form (as was her follow up novel, ‘Dear, Enemy’). Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer also wrote a super fun series based on letters between the two authors. I enjoyed Goethe’s letters as well, although in a very different way. His work was more from the soul than from a sense of fun. I highlighted a great many passages in this book.
The second thing I realized was somewhat startling. I could not love like this. So completely, passionately, and fervently. I was speaking to The Craftsman about this (not about the book-it would not have interested him-, but about the lack of passion I have for this kind of love). He commented I was too practical. I prefer that over being too cynical. I could not love a person to the point of removing myself completely from the world I am a part of. I have considered it because I didn’t fit the world, but it was not because of an all-consuming love for a single person who didn’t love me back.
I am glad I read this book, I’m thankful for the wisdom I’ve gained, and I will look forward to reading it again. I was not impressed with the character of Werther or his friends, Charlotte and Albert. I know how I think I would have acted, but I may have responded in the same way as the wedded pair. Werther should have listened more to who he was writing to. Which is why I rarely give advice. I am wholly sympathetic to my own friends who walk on a similar path, the one of desperate love. But not in a way of actually understanding it, more in the way of a friend who extends a hand of care. I can imagine the distress and upheaval caused by such devotion, I do not think I could emulate it. That thought circles back to the second thing I realized in this book.
It was a fun read and I’m hoping to wrap my hands around more of Goethe’s work in the future.