Sunday, September 28, 2014

The 306 Greatest Books #125 - Faust

The next book up on my reading of the 305 Greatest Books is Faust (A.K.A. The Tragedy of Faust) by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe. This book can be found on the Sybervision Book List and the Norwegian Book List





Upon reading the first few sentences of Part 1, I was thinking, "Yea, I can really get into this". Part 1 was written in a poem like style very similar to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which I also loved. So I could see some promise in this. Then the story shifted and it mimicked Book of Job, which I didn't like, but I felt the concept was good and could see where they could improve upon it. Later on, the story morphed again, this time feeling very much like Dante's Inferno. Another story that I rather enjoyed. So in general, I had some promise for this story. Throughout part 1 I was riveted and excited to see where the story went. When I reached the end of part 1, the way several things were revealed was amazing. Initially I had thought we were supposed to guess at what happened but then the author revealed what happened afterwords, letting the information flow out in an unexpected way. Very enjoyable and satisfactory. IF the story had ended after part 1, this would be a 100% recommend. However, it didn't. The story of Faust is written as a play, although there are so many characters at some points I can't imaging it actually being acted out. Faust is a scholar who makes a deal with the devil, another main character, in exchange for excitement (as I interpreted it). He uses the devil throughout the story in order to get his way and eventually ruins a girls life. And so ends part 1. Part 2, was published after Goethe's death and feels in many ways, like someone else wrote it. Or at the very least, like a different story. The plot is all over the place, sometimes it has Faust, but often it doesn't. The text is difficult to understand at times, perhaps due to the translation, more likely due to the story. At least there are some weak threads which tie back to the first part, especially the image of a beautiful girl seen in Part 1, who reappears for a large portion within the middle of the story. However, the story is barely intelligible and doesn't contain the magic emphasized in Part 1. So in summary, Part 1 is a definite recommend, but I personally can find no reason for anyone to read Part 2. There is a wrap-up to the part 1 story within Act V of Part 2, but really, it isn't all that fulfilling. 

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