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Who was Goethe?

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Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein - Goethe in the Roman Campagna. WIKI COMMONS

Who was Goethe?

Having died at the age of 82 in 1832, Goethe’s prolific life has had an incomparable influence on German literature, culture and language.

Apart from leaving more than 140 volumes of literature, among them such classics such as Faust and The Sorrows of Young Werther – both of which are required reading in German schools – anecdotal Goethe lore is still widespread and fresh in the German consciousness.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, born in Frankfurt 1749, has been dubbed a superstar.

Intuitively, one might argue that the Goethe’s glory is founded on the fact that he was a jack of all trades, master of all.

To intellectuals he might be a famed as a lexophile who studied Latin, Greek, French, Italian, English and Hebrew.

But he also fought as soldier in the battle of Valmy in 1792, trying to quell the impact the French Revolution had on Europe’s monarchies. It should be noted, the French won.

And as legend has grown, of course Goethe was an accomplished equestrian, a master at the art of fencing and one hell of a dancer.

In 1771, he became a licensed lawyer.

By 1774, his defining novel The Sorrows of Young Werther caused an outbreak of suicides among young men who were overpowered by the feeling of unrequited love. Later the novel was identified as a focal point for beginning the Romantic era.

While Goethe managed to avoid falling victim to the sublime emotions that his devoted - pantaloon wearing - readers took to heart, he also cherished accounting. Double-entry bookkeeping “was one of the most beautiful creations of the human mind,” he proclaimed.

So who was Goethe? He was a multifaceted phenomenal genius that Germans, and Teutophiles, love to identify with even to this day. jt/kk


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