on July 4, 2001
Certainly, the sixty years Goethe spent writing volumes I & II paid off. Unlike Shakespeare, there is a moral lesson which sums the human experience regardless of one's actual circumstances. By illusion and yearning are we enmeshed in lifes toils, only to find the simplicity of innocence and life's early beauty, before we possessed, was the greatest of our soul. Though greatly influenced by Shakespeare, Goethe takes the life's tale to another level which is wrapped in other dimensions of past, present, and future, in addition to heavens and hells. The Faustian choice is one made everyday and is weaved into every moment, until death and afterwards.
An understanding of Indian philosophy (i.e., Buddhism, Hinduism) and the Sanskrit texts brings a deeper depth of understanding, with their complexity and breadth giving greater meaning to a highly mystical and even transcendental text.
on April 2, 2002
"Vainly in the day time labored, pick and shovel, clink and strike." Goethe worked on Faust for much of his career, but composed some of the best of Part II in a time of life when most are in their rocking chairs or in the intensive care ward of the local nursing home. Goethe in his late seventies and early eighties would rise in the early dawn and compose some of the best poetry written. "I would elevate my mind to a kind of productivity which brought all this forth, in a full state of consciousness and which pleases me still, even though perhaps I could never swim again in such a river." It has been said that German poetry is difficult to translate or untranslatable, and this seems true with some translations of Faust, but the Norton contains a superb effort by Walter Arndt which appears always so on the mark that one suspects Arndt actually embellishes the German, but, rather than quibble over accuracy, it is all so good you will hardly care. Goethe builds upon the medieval Faust legend as a skeleton for his own writing in epic-poem style with various meter fashioned to fit the subject. Faust, weary of the ways of the world (one can almost hear the 60s hippy) embarks on a journey of self-discovery, skirt chasing and empire building finally ending in his 100th year in the ultimate trip, with a little help from his friend, Goethe. This composition is remarkable in innumerable ways. One can use a thesaurus of superlatives: wonderful imagery, perfect choice of words, peerless imagination, beautiful poetry, a unity to the whole which is memorable, as well as numerous wonderful scenes and lines, and always an intelligence that seems to absorb and understand everything. Of course, one can differ with Goethe philosophically. There are other angles from which to view life than Faust and his Mephistophelean foil. And Faust, which contains all the universal ingredients, can be faulted at times, dwelling too much on the antique philosophy, politics and literary questions which interested Goethe in his long life. But all this seems irrelevant to Faust as a work of art, permanently canonized for its beauty and writing alone, whatever disparagement or praise one might hold for its meaning or content. The Norton Edition is edited by Cyrus Hamlin whose interpretive notes are scholarly, contain a subtle respect for Goethe, and are in themselves a book worth reading. The selections of Goethe comment and scholarship range from the brilliant to the outer eliptics of literary criticism, and the included illustrations and Goethe letters on composition are a nice touch. The work of Hamlin and the Arndt translation which here frame Goethe as the main event make the Norton Critical Edition of Faust (2000) one of the better books one is likely to pick up.
on March 29, 2001
One of these days, someone asked if I believed in God. I answered: "Of course I do. There are some things in the world that couldn't have been created by men, such as Faust or The Divine Comedy. They must have been created by another entity, by God himself or through His direct inspiration. The human spirit is not that great."
Darwin was wrong. Men have not evoluted since Dante or Goeth. The modern man has become an ancient monkey: our brain has diminished and it doesn't conceive these kinds of Masterpieces anymore.
Who Am I to review such a Masterpiece as Faust? I`m just a monkey. A monkey that is going to read Faust for the fifth time in four years and still hasn't got it all, and, probably, never will.