The Sorrows of Young Werther


Short epistolary novel The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, published in 1774, is a tale of unrequited love that's considered among the greatest literary achievements. After coming across references to it in other books recently, I felt compelled to read it. The storyline is simple (spoilers): young artist falls in love with girl, girl is to be married to somebody else, boy laments at length through letters to a friend, boy can't go on so boy shoots himself in the head. It was the blockbuster of the day, and although a modern audience might regard the plot as hackneyed, it was fresh for its time, as was Goethe's near-Romantic storytelling and poetic prose. The writing is engrossing and well crafted, but it's so melodramatically gooey that I thought at times I was reading a parody. It's not, though. The young Werther is genuinely sorrowful, to the point I wanted to reach under the text and slap some sense into him. That said, I would read the novella again, for the richness of Goethe's prose and the many sweet sentences that struck chords.

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