In a 1975 review, Gerrit Komrij characterizes Goethe’s Die Leiden des jungen Werther as
that novel about a lovestruck zealot that blows himself to bits because the object of his affection has been engaged elsewhere. And that sums it up pretty well: young Werther meets Lotte, and falls truly, madly, deeply in love with her. Only: she’s been engaged, and, well, she doesn’t love him back. Which drives poor, young Werther to madness and suicide.
Back in 1774, when this epistolary novel was first published, it was all the rage. To me it came across as the melodramatic whining of a pedantic snob. His constant wallowing in self-pity is unbearable, and makes it hard to feel any sympathy for him. Just to illustrate his sorrows, his letter from August 21 (German version here):
I mean, nowadays you can get the same pathos in a nice three-and-a-half minute dose.
- Book read
- Johann Wolfgang Goethe — Het lijden van de jonge Werther (Die Leiden des jungen Werther translated by Thérèse Cornips)
- First line
- Wat ben ik blij dat ik weg ben!