Eduard and Charlotte are an aristocratic couple who live a harmonious but idle life in their estate. But the peace of their existence is thrown into chaos when two visitors - Eduard's friend the Captain and Charlotte's passionate young ward Ottilie - provoke unexpected attraction and forbidden love. Taking its title from the principle of elective affinities - the theory that certain chemicals are naturally drawn to one another - this is a penetrating study of marriage and adultery. Inspired by Goethe's own conflicting loyalties as he battled to maintain his relationship with his wife and control his feelings for a younger woman, Elective Affinities is one of the greatest works of the romance era: a rich exploration of love, conflict, and the inescapable force of fate.
Throughout his long, hectic and astonishingly varied life, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) would jot down his passing thoughts on theatre programmes, visiting cards, draft manuscripts and even bills ... Goethe was probably the last true 'Renaissance Man'.
Although employed as a Privy Councillor at the Duke of Weimar's court, where he helped oversee major mining, road-building and irrigation projects, he also painted, directed plays, carried out research in anatomy, botany and optics - and still found time to produce masterpieces in every literary genre. His fourteen hundred Maxims and Reflections reveal some of his deepest thought on art, ethics, literature and natural science, but also his immediate reactions to books, chance encounters or his administrative work. Although variable in quality, the vast majority have a freshness and immediacy which vividly conjure up Goethe the man. They make an ideal introduction to one of the greatest of European writers.
The second part of Goethe's masterpiece opens with Faust struggling to recover from the death of his beloved Gretchen. The quick-witted demon Mephistopheles soon persuades him to look beyond his sorrow and enter the world of politics and power, but the great scholar is still eager for new sensations, and asks Mephistopheles to reveal Helen of Troy to him in a vision. Overwhelmed by her beauty, Faust demands she be brought back from the underworld - but even this fails to bring him contentment, and his appetite for knowledge remains unsated. Completed a few months before Goethe's death, this rich and allusive work weaves together a wealth of diverse philosophical ideas and influences, reworking the medieval myth of Dr Faustus and speculating upon the search for truth in the Age of Enlightenment.
You only find true love once.
When Werther dances with the beautiful Lotte, it seems as though he is in paradise. It is a joy, however, that can only ever be short-lived. Engaged to another man, she tolerates Werther's adoration and encourages his friendship. She can never return his love.
Broken-hearted, he leaves her home in the country, trying to escape his own desire. But when he receives a letter telling him that she is finally married, his passion soon turns to destructive obsession.
And as his life falls apart, Werther is haunted by one certainty:
He has lost his reason for living.
'I can promise to be candid, not, however, to be impartial.' A selection of the most insightful maxims and reflections from one of Germany's greatest ever thinkers.
Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and across many centuries. They take us from a balloon ride over Victorian London to a garden of blossom in Japan, from Tierra del Fuego to 16th-century California and the Russian steppe. Here are stories lyrical and savage; poems epic and intimate; essays satirical and inspirational; and ideas that have shaped the lives of millions.
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749-1832). Goethe's works available in Penguin Classics are Faust, Part I, Faust, Part II, Maxims and Reflections, Elective Affinities, The Sorrows of Young Werther, Selected Poetry amd Italian Journey 1786-1788.