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Elective Affinities

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Elective Affinities was written when Goethe was sixty and long established as Germany's literary giant. This is a new edition of his penetrating study of marriage and passion, bringing together four people in an inexorable manner. The novel asks whether we have free will or not and confronts its characters with the monstrous consequences of repressing what little "real life" they have in themselves, a life so far removed from their natural states that it appears to them as something terrible and destructive.

272 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1809

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About the author

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

8,094 books5,706 followers
A master of poetry, drama, and the novel, German writer and scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe spent 50 years on his two-part dramatic poem Faust , published in 1808 and 1832, also conducted scientific research in various fields, notably botany, and held several governmental positions.

George Eliot called him "Germany's greatest man of letters... and the last true polymath to walk the earth." Works span the fields of literature, theology, and humanism.
People laud this magnum opus as one of the peaks of world literature. Other well-known literary works include his numerous poems, the Bildungsroman Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship and the epistolary novel The Sorrows of Young Werther .

With this key figure of German literature, the movement of Weimar classicism in the late 18th and early 19th centuries coincided with Enlightenment, sentimentality (Empfindsamkeit), Sturm und Drang, and Romanticism. The author of the scientific text Theory of Colours , he influenced Darwin with his focus on plant morphology. He also long served as the privy councilor ("Geheimrat") of the duchy of Weimar.

Goethe took great interest in the literatures of England, France, Italy, classical Greece, Persia, and Arabia and originated the concept of Weltliteratur ("world literature"). Despite his major, virtually immeasurable influence on German philosophy especially on the generation of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, he expressly and decidedly refrained from practicing philosophy in the rarefied sense.

Influence spread across Europe, and for the next century, his works inspired much music, drama, poetry and philosophy. Many persons consider Goethe the most important writer in the German language and one of the most important thinkers in western culture as well. Early in his career, however, he wondered about painting, perhaps his true vocation; late in his life, he expressed the expectation that people ultimately would remember his work in optics.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 621 reviews
Profile Image for Maureen .
1,442 reviews7,063 followers
July 5, 2021
Goethe himself said that you have to read this three times before you get it, having only read it the once, I found it an absorbing tale!
Profile Image for Luís.
1,940 reviews603 followers
January 12, 2023
Love feelings do not fit well with rational analysis and sometimes escape understanding.
Although it establishes an analogy between human relations and specific chemical properties, the novel "Elective affinities," by Goethe at the beginning of the 19th century, is a love tragedy.
At the end of widowhood, they both knew simultaneously Edouard and Charlotte had married and enjoyed their quiet life in their vast country estate around Weimar.
In their prime life, these castellans already have a great life experience. They know that the development of a couple depends on the attention of everyday life and mutual concessions.
Thus Edouard solicits with his wife the installation in the castle of the Captain, a long-time friend suffering from loneliness. Charlotte does not look favorably at this invitation but finally accepts it not without having succeeded in imposing on her husband the presence near them of her niece Otillie, of whom she makes a point of perfecting her education.
The Captain is a realistic character, and his ideas about the field organization are relevant. Charlotte appreciates the company of this measure, being constantly attentive to others and tactfully giving his opinion.
Odile is the incarnated charm and turns the head of Edward, who is old enough to be his father. However, he cares about the young woman, and his banter is sometimes ready to smile.
This idyllic but at least equivocal situation will resist the first headwinds.
In a surprisingly modern style, far from the banter of the time, Goethe leads the reader into a passionate story mixing four friendly and whole characters.
How about a little flirtation with German literature and more than affinity?
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,565 reviews1,887 followers
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October 20, 2020
A short book that feels hard to talk about, partly because it is fairly simple in terms of the subject matter and easy to throw away spoilers.

It is a late work, one of Goethe's few novels. I had read it once before, Issicratea's Review reminded me of that and planted the seed that it might be an idea to read it again some day, fate eventually intervened to ensure that I did, and it turned out that I had read the book originally with no great attention as I quickly noticed that my recollections of the book were mangled up.

Set among the minor aristocracy, the story concerns a married couple, Charlotte and Eduard, this is a second marriage for both of them, from her first marriage Charlotte has a daughter who is away at boarding school with Charlotte's niece Ottilie. Anyway Eduard wants and does invite his friend ,the Captain, to stay with them, about 3/4 of the way through the book we learn that the Captain has a name - Otto, but he is called the Captain throughout, until he becomes a Major, all of which is by the by. Charlotte then invites Ottilie to join them, then eventually the relationships shift and realign, at which point war intervenes and various ups and downs occur as they do in a novel until it closes.

Stylistically Goethe quite likes to burble on for several paragraphs before having a sudden twisting sentence that conveys some sudden and important piece of information, it reminds me of that Hayden symphony, maybe 'the Surprise' with it's 'hey, don't snooze, pay attention' theme, or perhaps it is a stylist legacy of Goethe's output as a poet and playwright.

The wonder of the work for me comes from several metaphors and an internal story with also deals with the theme of relationships.

Chemistry
The first metaphor is of die Wahlverwandtschaften or Elective Affinities, as the novel is known in English, a metaphor taken from chemistry, perhaps dating back to Alchemy. That certain chemical elements will break apart and bond with others more strongly. This is laid out explicitly in the text when the Captain is reading a chemistry book and a chemical discussions ensues. This describes the action of the novel as the initial couple breaks up. Although we speak of chemical attraction, or of the chemistry (or lack of) between people we don't view relationships as purely a matter of chemistry. The novel then is posing questions, is the metaphor helpful? Are relationships purely deterministic, or do we stand by legal institutions and social expectations that are nonchemical?

spacial
The novel also plays out in a particular space. A house, a (formal) garden and then the (informal) park, this too reflects the narrative drive of the novel, a movement from a highly ordered space with set relationships: marriage, husband, wife, friend, niece, to increasingly informal spaces and hazy relationships: lover? rival? This element led me to think of Jane Austen because her novels work in entirely the opposite direction, they start with the unclear and unsatisfactory, instead ending in highly ordered 'neat' states: marriage. This may be neat but is also naive. Goethe's view is more open in every way, marriage, any relationship is a beginning, not a closure, and that I suppose is the subject of the novel. Equally gardens, parks and houses are spaces designed by people, as a metaphor about relationships this allows for a combination both of intention and response to nature.

The movement from ordered to progressively less ordered is also a movement from safety and comfort towards the increasingly hazardous and inconvenient, a passing English Lord in the story remarks to Charlotte and Ottilie that one travels more or less to make life difficult for oneself, you are better off staying at home where all your books are , beyond the estate war occasionally rages and we see one man return from the fighting without a hand.

There's also a sense of needing to be in the right soil to flourish, Ottilie is struggling at school, but brought home to Charlotte's estate she blossoms. There is a potential dychotomy then in the novel's outlook between the sense that it is inevitable that relationships change and end (as the silly song goes - everything comes to an end, only the sausage has two) and the value ascribed to stasis.

temporal
We are told that the plants that flowered in the spring, bear fruit in the autumn, and this is a novel that exists in time, as the seasons change we see the succession of birthdays and the ageing of the characters, time implies a natural cycle of growth and decay which leads us back to the idea of chemistry.

story within a story
Most of the novel is omniscient narration, but with sections from Ottilie's diary - these tend towards aphorisms, some letters, and a mini story about two neighbouring children who when young were great rivals but who thanks to a lucky unlucky accident end up happily married suggesting that relationships grow over time out of close proximity and similar temperaments or chemistry...

It is an organic work, closely interwoven, posing questions rather than giving answers. I felt there was a sharp change of tone from the first to the second part when suddenly the bell toils for thee, loud with intimations of death (in capital letters), I could turn round and usefully read this book again, and probably again after that. This novel also features in The Tin Drum in which it is one of the only books that provide Oskar Matzerath with his education!
Profile Image for Issicratea.
213 reviews378 followers
November 22, 2015
What a very strange novel! It’s extraordinarily hybrid. One minute you are reading an aristocratic comedy of manners; the next, a philosophical essay; the next, a brooding, proto-symbolist, mythopoetic exploration of the workings of fate. I loved reading it for that reason, in the measured, twenty-thirty page doses that are all that my workload permits at the moment. I never had the least sense, from one day to the next, which Elective Affinities was going to show up.

That makes Goethe’s novel sound disunified, I realize, but one of the most remarkable things about it is that it isn’t. The mad mix of elements actually does fuse together; it’s like one of those experimental recipes combining unlikely ingredients that defeat all odds and actually work in the pan (v. The Flavor Thesaurus.) I didn’t feel that two thirds of the way through through the novel. At that point, Goethe seemed to have spiraled out of a tightly, almost geometrically, composed novel of adultery into a series of interesting, but disconnected vignettes (the Architect and his tombs and chapel; Luciane and her peculiar parlor games; Ottilie’s oblique diary musings.) The final episodes, however, strange as they are, bring the whole thing together—although that doesn’t detract from the novel’s ultimate elusiveness, a quality brought out well in this very well observed article I found online in The Paris Review: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/20....

From what I can gather about the reception of this novel, it has suffered very much from being read through a biographical lens (speculations about which of Goethe’s various love interests is represented in the relationship of Eduard and Ottilie, etc.) This couldn’t interest me less. Goethe was sixty when he wrote it, though, and one thing I did note was a preoccupation with death and memorialisation and legacy. This comes to the fore especially in the remarkable final scenes, but it is present throughout. Charlotte gets into trouble re-landscaping the village churchyard, such as to detract from the role of the graves as memorials to the dead as individuals. The Architect plunders ancient tombs and turns their grave wares into objects of collection and study. And the most fully described of the ridiculous tableaux vivants into which Luciane bullies the company is themed around the figure of the ancient queen Artemisia of Caria, who became a living monument for her husband Mausolus, drinking his ashes: a scene that manages to be, at the same time, satirical and deeply enmeshed with the novel’s most earnest philosophical themes.

Another thing I found very interesting in the novel was its treatment of place. It is very concentrated geographically. Apart from one dramatic scene in an inn (which only serves to underline the impossibility of getting away), all the action in the novel takes place within the—admittedly broad—confines of Eduard and Charlotte’s estate, with its old Hall, its new house, its tied village to be kept in order, its church, and its extensive grounds, ripe for landscaping and remodeling on the most fashionable and philosophically correct “English” manner. The novel reminded me a little of Jane Austen in the way in which it uses landscape improvement as moral metaphor, but Goethe’s use of the metaphor is much more complex and less transparent. In a way, the impulse to neaten and reorder and aesthetisize and “tame” Nature clearly maps onto the novel’s concern with marriage in relation to romantic love. But there are also potent links with the themes of death and of memoralization as an attempt to transcend death. Landscape gardening looks to the future, and the distant future, as an English visitor who is an expert on the art observes; it is a legacy that Eduard and Charlotte might hope to see cherished and appreciated by their son. As a conversation between Charlotte and the Assistant reminds us, however, that is not always how things happen. And in fact, through a horrible irony

One last thing—we still compliment contemporary male novelists for sensitive portrayals of women, as if this were a remarkable feat, but I completely take my hat off to Goethe in this regard. Ottilie, for me, ultimately floundered under the huge weight of symbolic resonance she has to carry, but she is very far from a stereotype; and Charlotte I thought was beautifully realized as a character and an excellent foil to her man-child husband (even though the novel becomes progressively less interested in her as it transitions from psychological realism to a more Gothic-romantic-melodramatic mode.)
Profile Image for Lisa.
991 reviews3,321 followers
March 14, 2019
When fear and hope are the same thing...

When you are enslaved by "elective" affinities...

When life plays you a chemistry mix you haven't asked for...

When the ideal of love clashes with the reality of marriage...

... then it is time to read Goethe again. This is Werther grown up to join the mess of life.
Profile Image for piperitapitta.
964 reviews353 followers
May 4, 2018
«Poiché l'amore è fatto così, da credere di avere esso solo dei diritti e che tutti gli altri spariscano dinanzi a lui.»

Ho sempre pensato che con affinità elettive, il modo di dire non il romanzo, ci si riferisse a quella particolare sintonia che viene a crearsi fra due persone, non necessariamente legate sentimentalmente, che si accorgono di avere un'affinità, appunto, privilegiata con l'altro, in un certo senso istintiva, forse non spiegabile con la ragione.
Scopro invece leggendo Goethe che non è affatto così, che il legame è passionale, del tutto sentimentale, e che il termine è mutuato dalla chimica e fa riferimento a quegli elementi che una volta venuti in contatto, anche se già legati ad un altro elemento «lasciano il precedente legame per contrarne uno nuovo».
Prendiamo ad esempio «una A intimamente legata a una B, da cui nessun mezzo e nessuna violenza possa separarla» e paragoniamole a quello che avviene al calcare, una terra calcarea «intimamente connessa a un acido leggero a noi noto sotto forma di gas. Se si mette un pezzo di una simile pietra in acido solforico diluito, questi si lega alla calce e insieme a essa diviene gesso, mentre quel leggero acido aereo evapora». Quindi un nuovo elemento, C, è intervenuto nel legame tra A e B provocando una separazione, autorizzandoci a «usare addirittura il legame affinità perché pare proprio che un legame venga preferito all'altro».
A volte può succedere che B, anziché evaporare come succede all'acido, una volta separato da B, possa essere attratto, poniamo il caso, da D, ma che continui comunque a cercare il legame con B, che invece è talmente preso da C da considerare ormai il vecchio legame inesistente, diciamo pure inutile, a negare persino che esso sia mai esistito, addirittura.
Ecco, tra elementi chimici, la scoperta e la moda degli anni in cui Goethe scrisse «Le affinità elettive», tanti problemi non ce ne sono, tutto va secondo natura, ma tra Charlotte e Eduard, il Capitano, e Ottilie, è tutta un'altra storia. Una storia in cui ci si interroga tra convenzione, legittimità, illegittimità, matrimonio, divorzio, mutevolezza, libertà, passione, dove forse le parti più intense, ancor più della storia in sé e dello sviluppo della stessa, sono proprio i ragionamenti sulle istituzioni e sui sentimenti.
Ma io, dico la verità, in questa storia, di passione ne ho trovata veramente pochina, molto romanticismo è chiaro, perché al contrario mi è parso di incrociare il rimbambimento maschile di mezza età della B, la bellezza dell'asino della C, la saggezza dell'uomo D e l'incredibile equilibrio di una A che, dopo aver tentato di salvare in ogni modo il proprio legame, si ricorda di non essere «terra calcarea» e decide di comportarsi da vera donna e di uscire elegantemente di scena.
Io, invece, quindi, resto qui, perplessa, a interrogarmi sul fatto che non sono affatto le affinità elettive che credevo io, una volta superata la fase dell'attrazione lo slancio e la passione iniziali, e cioè gli interessi, l'identità o lo scambio di vedute la crescita e l'intesa cerebrale, a rendere saldo un legame, un'intesa intellettuale prima ancora che fisica, quanto piuttosto quell'improvviso guizzo che attira un elemento verso un altro, la chimica insomma.
Ed io che pensavo che l'amore fosse alchimia!
Chimica, invece, tutto qua?

«Nel mondo le cose vanno diversamente: dietro il sipario si continua a recitare e quando si rialza non si ha più nessuna voglia di vedere o udire il seguito.»
Profile Image for Ana Carvalheira.
252 reviews65 followers
February 19, 2017
Após a leitura de “As Afinidades Eletivas”, escrita em 1809, ocorreu-me debruçar sobre a análise deste extraordinário romance de uma forma diferente, respondendo apenas a uma pergunta: porque Johann Wolfgang Goethe é tão atual conseguindo, no século 21, reunir tantos admiradores à volta da sua obra? E reside na pena desse notável escritor alemão a resposta:

1. “Com uma tal atitude, vós mulheres, sereis realmente invencíveis. Primeiro, razoáveis, de modo que não é possível contradizer-vos, graciosas de uma forma que nos entregamos a vós sem reservas, sensíveis, e não queremos de modo algum magoar-vos, cheias de pressentimentos e eis que nos assustamos” (pág.35). Que conhecimento da alma feminina!

2. Sobre a relação com os outros: “E essas relações serão diferentes, como diferente é a natureza dos seres. Nuns casos, encontrar-se-ão como amigos e antigos conhecidos que se juntam, se unem, sem modificarem o que quer que seja um no outro, tal como o vinho se mistura com a água. Outros, pelo contrário, persistem em manter-se estranhos lado a lado, e não se unirão, nem por mistura ou fricção mecânicas; tal como o óleo e a água que, agitados e misturados, um instante depois voltam a separar-se” (pág. 63). Quantos exemplos de (podres) uniões nossos conhecidos, não caberiam nesta última oração? Não seria melhor para o bem do casal, afastarem-se? Óleo e água nunca poderão obter a menor afinidade.

3. “Pressupõe-se a existência de capacidades que se devem transformar em competências” (pág. 69). Este aforismo, no nosso mundo laboral, consiste numa das realidades mais indesmentíveis!

4. “Não estamos nós também casados com a nossa consciência, de que muitas vezes, gostaríamos de nos livrar, porque ela para nós é mais incómoda do que um marido ou uma mulher poderiam ser?” (pág. 100). Brutal!

5. E o que dizer sobre o facto de, muitas vezes, “compensarmo-nos, em certa medida, com o nossos sucessos exteriores, aquilo que nos falta interiormente”? (pág. 109).

6. “A presença de Ottilie absorve tudo o resto; é nessa presença que ele está completamente mergulhado. Já nenhuma outra observação se lhe apresenta, a sua consciência já nada tem a dizer-lhe; tudo o que, na sua natureza, se encontrava reprimido, irrompe, todo o seu ser flui ao encontro de Ottilie” (pág. 125). Ah, o amor!!! Haverá outro sentimento tão ancestral?

7. “Ottilie, pelo contrário, perdia tudo, pode-se dizer, tudo; pois fora em Eduard que ela encontrara, pela primeira vez, vida e alegria e, na situação presente, ela sentia um vazio infinito, do qual outrora mal suspeitara, pois um coração que procura, sente bem que lhe falta alguma coisa; mas um coração que perdeu, sente que ficou vazio. A nostalgia transforma-se em descontentamento e em impaciência, e uma alma feminina, acostumada a esperar e ter paciência, gostaria agora de sair para fora da sua esfera (… ) e também fazer alguma coisa pela sua felicidade” (pág. 151). Vá, confessem, já alguma vez se sentiram assim, com o coração perdido? Aposto que sim …

8. “Para longe de mim, aqueles que têm o coração seco, os olhos secos” (pág. 156) … Vade retro!!!

9. Mais um aforismo: “Todos os laços que o destino uniu, são indestrutíveis” (pág. 157) … Creio que sim …

10. “Mas, no meio desta incerteza de vida – exclamou Eduard – entre a esperança e o temor, deixai ao pobre coração uma espécie de estrela polar, para a qual ele possa olhar, mesmo quando para ela, não se possa dirigir” (pág. 157). A poesia da esperança …

11. “No que me diz respeito, esta aproximação, esta mistura do sagrado com o que tem a ver com os sentidos, não me agrada absolutamente nada; como também não me agrada, ver que alguém se vote, se consagre a certos lugares e os enfeite, como se só assim se pudesse alimentar e manter um sentimento religioso. Nenhum ambiente, nem o mais comum, deve perturbar em nós o sentimento do divino que nos pode acompanhar por todo o lado transformar qualquer lugar num templo. O que há de mais elevado, de mais excelente, no homem, não tem forma e não nos devemos atrever a dar-lhe forma a não ser através das nobres ações” (pág. 216). A nossa relação com a divindade, íntima e subjetiva, seja ela qual for, não necessita de um lugar ou de tempo específico. Não precisamos da forma, apenas do conteúdo que ela nos poderá proporcionar.

12. “Há poucos homens que saibam ocupar-se do passado mais recente. Ou é o presente que nos retém com força, ou somos nós que nos perdemos no passado e tentamos evocar e restabelecer, conforme for possível, o que está inteiramente perdido” (pág. 227). Que extraordinário motivo de reflexão!

13. “Sob aquele céu claro , à luz daquele sol brilhante, tornou-se-lhe [a Ottilie] de súbito, evidente, que o seu amor, para atingir a perfeição, tinha de se tornar inteiramente desinteressado (…). Não desejava senão o bem do seu amigo, julgava-se capaz de renunciar a ele, de até mesmo nunca mais voltar a vê-lo, desde que soubesse que ele era feliz” (pág. 236). Não será o cúmulo da maturidade espiritual, sabendo que, ao não poder permanecer com a pessoa amada, desejar-lhe uma enorme e intensa felicidade?

14. “Quem, com uma certa idade, quer realizar antigos desejos e antigas esperanças da sua juventude, engana-se sempre, pois cada decénio da vida do homem tem a sua felicidade, as suas próprias esperanças e as suas perspetivas. Infeliz daquele que as circunstâncias ou as ilusões obrigam a antecipar-se ou a retroceder!” (pág. 262)- Há algo mais atual do que a compreensão e mais, a interiorização, de que há um momento para tudo na vida? Que todos os nossos momentos nos trazem espécies diferentes de sabedoria?

15. “Só no sofrimento sentimos perfeitamente todas as grandes qualidades que são necessárias para o suportar” (pág. 288) …………………

Essas quinze alíneas, representam o que de mais significativo a leitura de “As Afinidades Eletivas” me trouxe. Mas também, é uma história de amor extremamente bonita, de abnegação, compreensão, sofrimento, dor e morte … exatamente, como é a vida! Hoje e sempre!
Profile Image for Barbara Ellison.
54 reviews3 followers
August 2, 2012


Sometimes you read a novel where you wouldn't mind if every single character is dead by the end and this is one of them.
Profile Image for Uroš Đurković.
622 reviews140 followers
September 8, 2023
Ovo je jedna grozna knjiga koju je vreme ako ne pregazilo ono spljeskalo. Radioaktivno zamorna, da se poslužim pojmom iz hemije, budući da je i sam naslov ilustruje jedan hemijski proces. Inače, imam sve poštovanje za Getea, posebno za „Godine učenja Vilhelma Majstera”, kao i za njegovu nesvakidašnju svestranost koja znanje gleda kao celinu, a ne kroz uskostručne rascepkanosti. To me je i podstaklo da pročitam knjigu – znatiželja usmerena prema, u najširem smislu, susretu duhovnog i prirodnonaučnog. Naravno, zadivljujuće je šta Gete uspeva da ostvari čak i onda kada nije na svojim vrhuncima, ali celina (i to brižljivo komponovana celina) ubija u pojam kao malo šta. Tako pažnja posvećena detaljima, komunikacija sa pastoralnom tradicijom i niz zamaskiranih filozofskih rasprava, padaju u drugi plan pred jezivo neubedljivim i iritantnim likovima, koji pre mogu, po sopstvenom Geteovom viđenju, poslužiti kao elementi književnog opita, nego kao celoviti entiteti. Pritom, ako hoću da banalizujem, a što ne bih banalizovao, pa nek se ljuti ko hoće – radnja sasvim odgovara sapunici i to neuspeloj. Nije razbribriga ni u kojem smislu bila Geteova namera, niti je to trebalo da bude, ali iritantna je providnost odnosa među likovima. U život Eduarda i Šarlote uskaču kapetan Oto (Eduardov drug iz detinjstva) i Otilija (Šarlotina nećaka). Oni se, razume se, izukrštaju, onda Eduard pobegne u rat jer ne može da podnese kako svoju ljubav prema Otiliji, a Šarlota sa kapetanom dobija dete. Dok je u čamcu, a junaci su stalno oko jezerceta (čak i jedna pričica unutar dela se dešava na vodi), Otilija ispušta knjigu i bebu, beba se udavila, a ona je rasparala tkaninu sa svojih grudi, privila je bebu na sebe, ali bezuspešno. Pala je u depresiju, nije ništa jela i umrla je, a onda je i Eduard umro (iznenadno, nije se ubio, nota bene) i onda su ih sve isahranjivali. Tragično. Naporno tragično.

Ali što se sve to ispodešavalo? Mislim da je ključna tema ovog Geteovog romana kultivizacija – različiti oblici kultivitacije koji čovek mora da praktikuje ne bi li se ostvario. Kultura je čovekova priroda, čovekova suštinska potreba – bilo da se misli na uređivanje staništa (o kome ima dosta reči – posebno u odnosu na uređenje krajolika), ili da se odnosi na obrazovanje* (ključna Geteova tema – i ovde izuzetno važna). Kultivizacija je ono što pravi prelaz, razliku: pretače beslovesna bića u slovesna. Začkoljica je što spolja može da deluje da je prelaz izvršen, ali nas nešto iskonsko sputava u povinovanju i društvenih i ličnih nametnutosti. A gde god se to pojavi, pojavi se i pitanje izbora – slobodne volje. Sukob nagona i racija je presudan za tragične sudbine, a kao najveći problem ističe se nemogućnost pronalaženja održivog rešenja. Tako se u romanu ističe pomalo simpatična ideja da svaki brak bude „oročen” na pet godina – kao nekakav ugovor koji može da se potpiše na još pet godina, ako sve funkcioniše kako treba. A to „kako treba” podrazumeva: ushićenje, suživot, razočaranje, ponovno mirenje. Sve faze su deo procesa.

S tim u vezi – u odnosu na kultivizaciju (samoobuzdanje, pa i samoprevazilaženje), kao i na navedene faze – izneću nešto možda nategnuto: „Izbor po srodnosti” je, uprkos vrtovima, flautama i jadima visokog društva, delo o nasilju. Iza svakog lepo upakovanog paketića krije se čitav katalog nasilja (nad sobom, nad svojima) koje mora da bude sprovedeno da bi se došlo do željene forme. A sve to zajedno vodi u propast, a propast je čak i bezdogađajnost: truljenje u aristokratskoj dokolici.

Kome je krivo što sam ocrnio roman, može pogledati odličan esej Valtera Benjamina o ovoj temi i biće mu lakše.

I da, ne znam kako je kod vas, ali posebno me nerviraju likovi posrednici, čija je jedina funkcija da se pojave po potrebi, povežu nekoga i ispare. To je slučaj ovde sa jednim Mitlerom, koji dođe kao neka gumica da se svežanj ne raspadne sasvim. (Doduše, Mitler kaže da je brak „osnov čitavog moralnog društva”, ali i „početak i vrhunac čitave kulture”. Što uopšte nije nevažno.)

* Apropo obrazovanja, jedan vrlo zanimljiv komentar:

„Nesreća je u tome”, uzviknu Edvard, „što čovek ništa više ne može da nauči za čitav život. Naši preci su se držali onoga što su u mladosti naučili; ali mi sada moramo svakih pet godina ponovo da učimo ako nećemo sasvim da izađemo iz mode.” (146)

Čitao sam prevod Tankosave Kašiković. Deluje mi da je prevod dobar.
Profile Image for Miles.
469 reviews153 followers
July 17, 2016
A proper analysis of this book can only be executed by readers with a thorough knowledge of early 19th-century literary tropes and gender roles. I am no such reader. To me, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Elective Affinities felt like a soap opera from a parallel universe (i.e. Europe’s romantic period). While containing some terrific turns of phrase and a few ruminations about human nature that still ring true, Elective Affinities is first and foremost a paragon of anachronism. The motivations and actions of the characters are inexplicable in modern terms, and the narrative arc follows a queerly Shakespearan route, mirroring the Bard’s romantic comedies in the first part and his tragedies in the second.

This book is about four aristocratic lovers: Eduard and Charlotte, a married couple, and Ottilie and the Captain, the unfortunate objects of their extramarital affections. Eduard and Charlotte’s pampered life is upset when Ottilie and the Captain both undertake extended stays at their estate. As Eduard falls for the demure and naive Ottilie, Charlotte’s respect for the Captain’s emotional maturity (a quality she also possesses) draws her away from her husband. In Goethe’s words, these characters have “natures which, when they meet, quickly lay hold on and mutually affect one another” (52). The four companions debate whether human relationships result from some predetermined sequence of events (i.e. chemistry), or because affinities can be “elective”: “One relationship was preferred to another and chosen instead of it” (54).

This is an interesting and persistent philosophical question, but one that fails to imbue this particular narrative with much lasting value. This is because Goethe’s characters are either boring or profoundly unlikable. They spend all their time bickering about 19th-century first world problems, such as Eduard’s discomfort when someone reads over his shoulder, outdated theories of gender essentialism, and strategies for the optimal placing of a new path in the already-opulent grounds surrounding the mansion. Eduard is the worst by a long shot, proving himself an insufferable pissant whose only “virtue” is the luck of his wealthy parentage.

Elective Affinities captures European consciousness prior to the advent of Marxist thought. Goethe’s protagonists blithely ignore the struggles and inner lives of the servants and peasants who surround them, treating them like meatbags whose only decent purpose is to facilitate dinner parties and dig garden beds. From two centuries’ distance, it is almost comic to observe Goethe’s utter lack of perspective regarding the bourgeoisie’s inability to extend humanist principles to members of the proletariat. At one point, a lovesick Eduard encounters a beggar and proclaims, “You are to be envied…You still enjoy your alms of yesterday, but my happiness of yesterday is gone!” (134).

In trying to untangle this knot of misplaced affections, Goethe goes for the kill in the novel’s final act. He does his best to wring some genuine tragedy out of this overblown and haughty story, but fails in almost every regard–except one. This book is a success insofar as it shows how the people in Goethe’s world were utterly constrained by the ridiculous social expectations of aristocratic life. Lives are ruined and lost because of natural developments that, while causing appropriate emotional stress, should never result in the maudlin outcomes depicted here. Elective Affinities helps us realize that, despite its many sins, the modern world is better than what came before.

This review was originally published on my blog, words&dirt.
Profile Image for Giulia.
160 reviews43 followers
May 2, 2021
Chiedo venia a tutti coloro che hanno amato questo romanzo: completarne la lettura, per me, è stata una prova di forza, tanta la pesantezza e la noia che vi ho trovato.
Nonostante la storia sia interessante e le riflessioni sulle dinamiche di coppia e sul matrimonio siano davvero notevoli, mi sono letteralmente trascinata alla fine, carponi, stringendo i denti, dopo aver faticosamente girato una pagina dietro l’altra, neanche fossero state di pietra.
Forse Goethe non si merita una lettrice come me, e io, dopo il Werther, il Faust (comunque altra cosa) e ora le Affinità, prendo definitivamente congedo “dall’ultimo uomo universale a camminare sulla terra”.
397 reviews25 followers
May 28, 2011
I read this beautiful novel in German. Though I might have objected to how structured it is, so full of symbols and echoes, in the hands of a master like Goethe it only contributes to the subtle atmosphere. What's more, the characters are individual and detailed, as comes out through their interactions and words. I found myself pitying Ottilie rather than being annoyed by her submissiveness (in any case, there's more to her than submissiveness); and Charlotte struck me as one of the most likable, admirable characters I've encountered in pre-20th-century fiction. She's not an anachronistic feminist, but rather a self-possessed person whose experience of life has contributed to her good sense; at one point she gently but firmly rebuts a man who's made some generality about women. A shocking event was increased in impact in that it was the first thing that ever shook Charlotte into saying something irrational.

If Goethe has any opinion about the real significance and proper solution of the painful tangle of emotions in this story, he expresses it only indirectly; like most of the best novelists, he raises more questions than he answers. He describes the social forces that are trying to plan and control everything, yet can only do so in part. In the end, this book seems less of a tribute to romantic love (such a destructive force) than to friendship, which survived everything and was not destroyed by bitter feelings as it could so easily have been.
Profile Image for Martinis.
234 reviews58 followers
September 16, 2017
Abbiamo commesso una pazzia: ora lo vedo fin troppo bene.
Chi, giunto ad una certa età, vuole realizzare sogni e speranze di gioventù, si inganna sempre, giacché nell'uomo ogni dieci anni cambia il concetto delle felicità, cambiano le speranze e le prospettive.
Guai a colui che, dalle circostanze o dall'illusione, viene indotto ad aggrapparsi al futuro o al passato!
Abbiamo commesso una pazzia.
Dovremmo, per una sorta di scrupolo, rinunciare a ciò che i costumi del nostro tempo non ci vietano? In quante cose l'uomo ritorna sui suoi propositi, sulle sue azioni, e non dovrebbe farlo qui, dov'è in gioco tutto e non un dettaglio, dove si tratta non di questa o di quella condizione di vita, bensì della vita in tutto il suo complesso?
Profile Image for Jorge.
252 reviews341 followers
February 25, 2019
Es una novela publicada en 1809 que se enmarca dentro del Romanticismo alemán del siglo XIX y en la cual se exaltan los sentimientos humanos en un entorno campestre o rural, lo que nos sugiere un redescubrimiento de la naturaleza. Esta novela pertenece a las obras de madurez de Goethe que está considerado como el hombre de letras alemán más grande.

Aunque es una novela de ideas y de exploración sentimental y no de acción, esto no obsta para que el interés en su lectura se mantenga en todo momento, ya que está muy bien delineada y la temática nos va sumergiendo con interés en su lectura. Desde el principio Goethe nos deja entrever de qué nos hablará y con este conocimiento es que nos mantiene interesados.

La obra está dividida en dos partes, en la primera la trama recae en 4 personajes y ocasionalmente en 7. Todos los sentimientos, sensaciones, reflexiones y toda su problemática están motivadas por la estrecha convivencia entre ellos y por el entorno campestre en el que viven. Este entorno, les genera sensaciones intensas que llenan sus horas y sus días. No hay sociedad ni ciudad que los distraiga de un mundo estrecho pero intenso, formado por ese pequeño núcleo de personas y por la majestuosa naturaleza.

En el inicio se percibe la analogía que hace Goethe en la que trata de mostrarnos los fenómenos a que se exponen los elementos y los compuestos químicos al entrar en juego con otros agentes o bien por la supresión de alguno y compara estos fenómenos con las relaciones interpersonales de los seres humanos. La unión de elementos químicos produce diversas reacciones, al igual que en las uniones o asociaciones humanas, pero cuando entra en juego algún elemento adicional y ajeno se provocan desequilibrios. Esta analogía se traslada con mayor énfasis al matrimonio que es la institución que provee a la sociedad de equilibrio moral, pero que existen fuerzas naturales que pueden disolverlo.

Eduard, es un hombre dedicado a sus tierras en donde se alza una finca, un castillo, algunas otras construcciones y grandes extensiones de naturaleza de gran exuberancia. Eduard es un hombre un tanto egoísta que frecuentemente se deja llevar por sus impulsos y que está casado en segundas nupcias con Charlotte, con quien vive plácidamente en sus tierras.

Charlotte, es la esposa de Eduard. Una mujer hacendosa y apacible, sensata y madura de una gran serenidad de carácter quien piensa bien las cosas antes de dar un paso.

Otro personaje central es un hombre llamado simplemente “el capitán” cuyo nombre sólo se menciona de pasada y es Otto; antiguo y entrañable amigo de Eduard, el capitán es un hombre retirado de su oficio y quien es invitado a pasar una temporada a la finca de Eduard para llevar a cabo unas mejoras y hacerle compañía al matrimonio.

Ottilie, es la sobrina de Charlotte que estando en un internado es llevada a vivir con Charlotte y Eduard por diversas razones. Es una jovencita en cuyo interior se fraguan intereses, talentos y sentimientos que no sabe o no puede sacar o no tiene los medios para darlos a conocer al mundo. Es una de esas personalidades cuyo desarrollo interior necesita de ciertas condiciones y de cierto tiempo para madurar. Las personas cuyo temperamento es como el de Ottilie no la pasan tan bien en el mundo, puesto que hay que exteriorizar las fortalezas y talentos personales para salir adelante. En el propio texto se cita una frase muy cierta, emitida por un maestro de esta jovencita: “Las capacidades se suponen, pero deben convertirse en disponibilidades”. Por varias razones este personaje me parece el más interesante y de hecho se convierte en el detonante de la trama.

Mittler es un personaje especial aunque secundario. Se trata de un exsacerdote que se dedica a visitar familias y comunidades para tratar de solucionar los problemas de convivencia. Este personaje representa la tradición y la moral: “El matrimonio es el comienzo y la cumbre de toda civilización y debe ser indisoluble”.

Por último y de manera antagónica al personaje anterior tenemos a las figuras de un par de personajes que son un Duque y su pareja una Baronesa; ellos no se encuentran casados y esto da pie para hacer algunas reflexiones sobre el matrimonio que versan sobre la flexibilidad en la permanencia de éste y en las facilidades que deben existir para disolverlo en cuanto se haga necesario: “El mundo es muy cambiante y diverso, ¿por qué el matrimonio debería de permanecer inalterable?”. Aquí podría inferirse un tanto el pensamiento liberal de Goethe quien permaneció en unión libre con su mujer, hasta que tras 18 años decidió casarse con ella.

La estrecha convivencia entre estas cuatro personas da paso a una serie de incidentes sentimentales entre ellos que contribuyen a trastocar el equilibrio inicial entre Charlotte y Eduard. Esta perturbación de las emociones y sentimientos no sólo se circunscribe a Charlotte y Eduard sino también al Capitán y a Ottilie. La primera parte de la novela concluye con importantes cambios que abren el camino para la segunda parte: tanto el capitán como Eduard se marchan de la finca y Charlotte nos da la noticia de su embarazo y con esto la llegada de otra persona a su vida y que luego nos deparará una sorpresa muy original de la que Goethe se sirve para hacer alusión al adulterio mental.

La segunda parte inicia con la inclusión de algunos personajes más: el arquitecto que se ha hecho cargo de las obras de construcción ante la ausencia del capitán y de Eduard. Este arquitecto cuyo nombre no sabemos, es de un carácter centrado y tiene inclinaciones artísticas por lo que se hace cargo también de remozar la Iglesia del pueblo y aparecen aquí algunas reflexiones sobre el arte y el artista las cuales se van plasmando en forma de cartas y apuntes en el diario de Ottilie. No omito mencionar que este arquitecto muestra inclinaciones sentimentales hacía Ottilie.

Otro personaje importante es la hija de Charlotte llamada Luciana, quien llega a la finca con decenas de personas para anunciar su boda. La personalidad de Luciana es sumamente activa, de una gran vivacidad y hasta un tanto protagónica.

Reaparece el exsacerdote Mittler que aporta interesantes observaciones sobre varios temas entre ellos, sobre los mandamientos de la Iglesia Católica, condenado la forma en que se hacen prohibiciones en lugar de fomentar una convivencia positiva y, de esta forma, crear virtudes.

En la segunda parte reaparece, también, un personaje que en la primera había tenido un paso fugaz y sólo a través de cartas que es denominado como "el auxiliar", es una especie de preceptor de Ottilie y también se siente atraído por la personalidad de ésta. Es un ser sensible y conocedor de los seres humanos, de su naturaleza interior, de sus motivaciones y reacciones ante diversos estímulos.

Aparece también "el jardinero", personaje dedicado y conocedor de la naturaleza y de su desarrollo, persona observadora que sabe que los seres humanos son como las plantas de quienes se puede obtener todo si se les trata conforme a su modo de ser. Él sabe hacer lo adecuado en cada estación tanto de la naturaleza como de los hombres.

Otro personaje, referido simplemente como "el inglés", cuyo paso es fugaz por el relato y que se distingue por no tener un hogar fijo ya que por las circunstancias se ha visto empujado a esta situación. Este personaje hace reflexionar a Charlotte sobre la situación de Eduard quien ha abandonado su hogar al igual que él.

Al final esta novela nos deja varias reflexiones: la decisiva e inesperada participación de agentes externos en nuestras vidas. No solamente la actuación de seres vivos sobre nosotros puede trastocar nuestras vidas, también hay agentes inorgánicos que nos pueden afectar de alguna manera.
La determinante actuación del destino que muchas veces nos otorga nuestros deseos pero a su manera y a veces nos proporciona algo diferente a lo que deseábamos pero por encima de nuestros deseos.
La creencia de que generalmente creemos actuar por nosotros mismos, eligiendo nuestras actividades y circunstancias, sin embargo es el tiempo o el destino quien dispone nuestros planes e inclinaciones.
Profile Image for Sandra Deaconu.
685 reviews104 followers
December 25, 2022
Parcă scrisă de Jane Austen, după ce a citit o broșurică despre filosofie.

,,este necesar și prietenesc să scrii nimicuri, mai bine decât să nu scrii deloc.''

,,observ că în căsnicie trebuie să te cerți uneori, fiindcă, prin aceasta, afli câte ceva de la celălalt.''
Profile Image for Elena Sala.
486 reviews80 followers
November 22, 2022
Goethe was very proud of this novel. He thought it was very complex "and it needs reading three times". I only read it once and I don't feel the urge of reading it again, at least, for the time being.

ELECTIVE AFFINITIES (first published in 1809) is a novel about marriage, however, it tackles the subject from an unexpected angle because it explores if marriage vows really should be indissoluble.

Eduard and Charlotte are a middle-aged couple who live in their large estate in the country. The two have loved each other from a young age, but they only married recently, after the deaths of their respective spouses. They live in seclusion, enjoying their calm and peaceful lives as they seek to make up for the years they spent apart. One day, however, a letter from an old friend brings a change to this perfect life.

Eduard and Charlotte’s delightful life is upset when two guests, Ottilie and the Captain, undertake extended stays at their estate. Unexpectedly, the reader discovers that chemistry-of all subjects!- is introduced to analyze "philosophically" what starts to transpire in this genteel estate.

Goethe suggests that these characters have “natures which, when they meet, quickly lay hold on and mutually affect one another”. As forbidden passions heat the atmosphere, the four companions calmly debate whether human relationships result from some predetermined sequence of events (like in chemistry), or because affinities can be “elective”: in other words, “one relationship was preferred to another and chosen instead of it”. All these lengthy discussions are so pompous and ridiculously civilized.

In order to avoid spoilers I will spare you further details. I feel quite uncomfortable writing in this way about a novel written by Goethe but I have to admit I thoroughly disliked the characters. They were cardboard creatures, not believable, well developed characters. Their dialogues are so artificial, so overblown, so utterly boring. And then, Goethe gives us the tragic, unbelievably inflated, dramatic finale. The ending is the perfect example of German Romanticism, an aesthetic I've never been fond of. I probably missed this novel's finer points but I don't see myself reading it three times to discover its concealed secrets.
Profile Image for Literarischunterwegs.
277 reviews35 followers
January 6, 2021
Was für eine Dramatik, was für ein Ende.
Ehrlich gesagt, wäre es nicht Goethe und hätte es nicht diese literarische Qualität, wäre es, den reinen Plot betrachtend, einer Rosamunde Pilcher würdig.
Aber es ist Goethe und es hat diese literarische Qualität. Besonders eindringlich empfand ich den ersten Teil, hier vor allem die Art und Weise, wie die menschlichen Beziehungen mit den chemischen Verbindungen der Wahlverwandtschaften in Vergleich gebracht werden und auch das sich Entwickeln der Situation. All dies nahm mich sehr gefangen. Teil zwei hatte dann seine Schwächen und Längen bis sich in dessen Hälfte die Dramatik des ersten Teils wieder einstellte. Diese Spannung blieb bis zum dramatischen Schluss, sodass ich ab da wieder vollends im Bann der Ereignisse gefangen war.
Die gedanklichen Verbindungen und Zusammenhänge, die er seinen Personen in den Mund legt und die Situationen, Beschreibungen und Selbstreflexionen der Personen werden ganz in Goethes Manier sehr eloquent und in einer wunderschön, für manche vielleicht schwülstig, anmutenden Sprache mit einer stilistischen Genauigkeit, die ihresgleichen sucht, dargeboten.
Lesend wie hörend ein literarisches Ereignis und ein Genuss.
Profile Image for Marisa Fernandes.
Author 2 books42 followers
May 6, 2019
Goethe escreveu esta história, pensando-a ao pormenor. Não há nada que aqui falhe. "As Afinidades Electivas" são efectivamente uma obra plena de Romantismo enquanto tendência literária do início ao fim. Com uma forte carga dramática, bem patente na forma como termina e que me fez recordar "Romeu e Julieta" de Shakespeare. Penso, de igual modo, que reflecte bem Goethe enquanto escritor.

Gostei muito do livro, mas não do final (ainda que compreenda o seu enquadramento e se justifique pelas razões acima expostas). Sinto alguma afinidade com o Romantismo enquanto tendência literária, algo que não consigo muito bem explicar. Ou talvez consiga explicar, em parte, por causa do turbilhão de emoções que lhe está habitualmente associado, aquele sentir desmedido que extravasa o razoável com frequência, a saudade, o desejo, a impossibilidade e a vontade de se evadir/partir pelo mundo fora, o amor à arte e à natureza.

Tudo isso está presente em "Afinidades Electivas". Uma história de adultério espiritual escrita com todo o cuidado e delicadeza e muita, muita sensibilidade e inteligência.
Profile Image for Boris.
107 reviews
November 9, 2012
Goethe doesn't just write in German, he is the very definition of the German language. This book, as well as das Leiden des Jungen Werters, have clearly shown to me the beauty of die Deutsche Sprache.
Because of this reason I would recommend everybody with only the slightest knowledge of German, to read this in the original language. A translation could never grasp the majestic feeling in which Goethe seems to soak all his words.

Die Wahlverwandschaften is in the first place a book about interpersonal relationships. The titles refers to the chemistry that occurs when certain people are placed together. In this book, a wealthy couple, Eduard and Charlotte, invites two friends: one, a frail, polite girl, the other a solemn guy, who temporarily is out of work. It does not take long until things start to change in this once stable family: in no time Eduard falls in love with Otillie, the girlfriend of Charlotte. And Charlotte starts having feelings for Hauptmann, the friend of Eduard.

The passion, the forbidden love, is a theme that Goethe handles well. The desperate feelings that the protagonists experience are translated into descriptions of intense craving for something that cannot be. Especially interesting is how each person deals differently with the emotions he or she experiences and this supports the main point of the work: people are slaves to their personalities.

One should not live his life without having read at least one work by Goethe. It makes you think about the way we experience emotions, and how we are all part of a mysterious game, driven by even more mysterious forces. Emotions can be as destructive as they are beautiful.
219 reviews6 followers
November 16, 2015
This is the first Goethe I've read since I was forced to read Werther in school, mostly because I hated Werther and thought he was melodramatic and felt sorry for poor Charlotte who didn't deserve to be dragged into his mess. Since this was how I felt about Edvard and Ottilie as well, I think I have to accept that Goethe isn't for me.

There are some books I read where I feel like the author pays attention to the wrong part of the story. In the beginning, there are two pairs of lovers, but somewhere along the way it feels like Goethe drops Charlotte and the Captain for Edvard and Ottilie's star-crossed love story. As a result the book feels lopsided, and all the interesting discussions about marriage and duty and right and wrong morally and ethically disappears and instead we get pages upon pages with how perfect and helpful and good Ottilie is. For me, I think Charlotte deserves more, because she's the one who has to keep everything together when her husband disappears to war, the Captain is away and perhaps even getting married, and her daughter seems to be an incredibly spoiled and annoying young lady.

The book isn't bad, however, just not to my taste. I thought there were some interesting parts that made me wish I knew more about the times when Goethe was writing. There is a lot in here about landscaping, art and the natural sciences that I'm sure gives a resonance to the writing for someone who knows more about the period than I do. I just wish that Goethe hadn't chosen to write about characters that managed to both annoy and bore me.
Profile Image for Wanda.
630 reviews
December 21, 2014
7 JUN 2014 - Tsk! Tsk! Why does a seemingly content couple allow a friend to talk them into a science experiment of their hearts. Fools!

P.S. Edward is a spoiled man-child. Yuck!

8 JUN 2014 - I am wondering if Mittler's character is meant to be the voice of reason -- he flits in, gives his opinion, and leaves as quickly as he entered. And, no one pays much attention to him.

15 JUN 2014 -- this read was frustrating for me. I simply could not understand why a happy couple would want to willingly conduct such an evil experiment. No good could come of it and none did. Never cheat on your spouse nor ever think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. It is not!
Profile Image for Laura.
6,907 reviews565 followers
November 23, 2015
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

Page 25:
And those are the cases which are really most important and remarkable— cases where this attraction, this affinity, this separating and combining, can be exhibited, the two pairs severally crossing each other; where four creatures, connected previously, as two and two, are brought into contact, and at once forsake their first combination to form into a second. In this forsaking and embracing, this seeking and flying, we believe that we are indeed observing the effects of some higher determination; we attribute a sort of will and choice to such creatures, and feel really justified in using technical words, and speaking of 'Elective Affinities.'"

4* Faust, 1st Part
4* Elective Affinities
TR The Sorrows of Young Werther
TR Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship
TR Italian Journey
25 reviews
May 13, 2021
Onestamente lo ho trovato di una noia mortale.
I personaggi mi sono parsi tutti scialbi e ho fatto fatica a finirlo. Ho sperato che migliorasse andando avanti ma non è stato così.
Non è un libro romantico, non parla di filosofia né di amore, non parla di guerra né della vita in generale...non ho davvero capito qual è il punto.
Non riesco sinceramente a capire perché sia diventato un classico famoso; è chiaro che deve essermi sfuggito qualcosa di importante.
Profile Image for Alberony Martínez.
482 reviews33 followers
August 22, 2021
Goethe a Christiane von Goethe. “15 de septiembre de 1809. Os envío un tomo, pero solo bajo las siguientes condiciones: 1. Que lo leáis con la puerta cerrada con llave. 2. Que nadie descubra que lo habéis leído. 3. Que lo reciba de nuevo el próximo miércoles. 4. Que me escribáis después sobre lo que habéis sentido mientras leías”

El título de esta novela, Goethe lo acunó del químico sueco Torben Bergman, quien en el siglo XVIII hablo de las Afinidades electivas, como aquel proceso químico en el que dos compuestos entran en contacto, se separan y vuelven a unirse debido a una afinidad más cercana. Mientras tanto, este proceso químico le resultó materia prima para Goethe encumbrarse con una novela que tuviera como trama ese proceso donde analogías, ambición, la rectitud y el fantasma del adulterio se echara a correr en el mismo, pues en el discurrir del texto se da una conversación nocturna sobre las relaciones químicas, las cuales proporciona una buena razón para la decisión: si agrega ácido sulfúrico diluido a la piedra caliza, se forma yeso y el ácido previamente unido a la cal se disuelve. Mitad en serio, mitad en broma, Charlotte señala los paralelismos con las relaciones humanas: Desafortunadamente, conoce demasiados casos en los que la conexión entre dos personas ha sido destruida por la intrusión de un tercero. La química, responde Eduard, también tiene una respuesta preparada aquí: sólo hay que añadir un cuarto elemento para que de las antiguas surjan dos parejas nuevas y satisfechas. Los químicos llaman a este fenómeno una "afinidad electiva". La pareja decide llevar a Ottilie a su casa para que Charlotte pueda tener un acompañante.

“Los hombres piensan más en cada cosa por separado, en lo presente, y con razón, porque están llamados a hacerlo, a realizarlo; las mujeres, por el contrario, pensamos más en todo lo que en la vida va unido, y con la misma razón, puesto que nuestro destino, el destino de la familia, va unido a todo ese conjunto, y precisamente lo que se nos exige es lograr esa unión.”

La publicación de esta novela fue todo un acontecimiento, pues causo gran sensación entre los círculos más culto de la sociedad alemana, pero aún más, su publicación, según una testigo, los lectores abarrotaban las librerías como si estuvieran en una panadería en época de hambruna. Claro teniendo en cuenta, que con la publicación de Los sufrimientos del joven Werther ya había un público que con ansia sospechaban que esta Las afinidades electivas iban a resultar el mismo efecto, pero este espumarajo se fue disolviendo por la complejidad de texto porque iba más bien destinado para aquellos lectores que no se dejaran intimidad por su hermetismo y su insensibilidad. Si habían de esperar un escándalo, logro el efecto, pues reaccionaron a la obra con incomprensión e indignación. Goethe no se le queda a nadie callado ante la crítica de inmoralidad del texto, pues en una ocasión una señora lo abordo y le manifestó su inconformidad con el texto por lo inmoral del mismo, a lo que Goethe le manifestó: “Lo siento es mi mejor libro”. Mas luego en un comentario irónico a un amigo, que le preguntaba por sus "estrictos principios con respecto al matrimonio" cuando "piensa con tanta negligencia en todas las demás cosas". A lo que Goethe le respondió: “la novela no fue concebida como un sermón moral conservador ni como un llamado al adulterio alegre.” Pero Goethe nunca se dejó llevar por esclarecer a sus contemporáneos sus intenciones últimas.

En resumen, esta novela se le tilda como una de las novelas más compleja de la literatura alemana, pues el conflicto entre naturaleza y cultura, entre la pasión humana y las normas sociales son temas a discutir, y Goethe lo hace de una madera magistral trayendo la química al campo de la literatura. Muchos sus inmediatos en el campo de la literatura reconocieron la importancia del texto. El mismo Thomas Mann describió el libro: "la novela más importante de los alemanes". Bertolt Brecht admiro la elegancia inherente de la obra. Se ha llegado a precisar que la publicación de este texto fue la génesis de otros textos que tratan el adulterio del siglo XIX como Madame Bovary de Gustave Flaubert, Anna Karenina de Leo Tolstoi o Effi Briest de Theodor Fontane. Una excelente novela atestada de ideas y aforismos que dimensiona lo social y sentimental entre personas. Esa segunda parte donde interviene la sobrina Ottilie nos es para menos. Un buen puente entre el clasicismo y el romanticismo.
Profile Image for George.
2,305 reviews
September 7, 2020
An interesting, engaging, well written novel about four characters and the nature of love. Eduard and Charlotte, two young nobles, marry after both their previous spouses died. Charlotte’s daughter from her first marriage is in a boarding school. This marriage is interrupted by the advent of the Captain, a friend of Eduard, and Ottilie, the orphaned daughter of a close friend of Charlotte. A very good exploration of relationships. A worthwhile read.

First published in 1809.
Profile Image for Melcat.
282 reviews26 followers
April 18, 2023
I am sorry for all Goethe fans, I found "Elective Affinities" to be an incredibly tedious book. The novel follows the lives of four people who become embroiled in a complex melodramatic love square.

The philosophical musings and poetic language that some readers may appreciate only added to the book's pretentiousness in my opinion. The characters were flat and uninteresting. The slow pace of the book made it a real chore to get through and ultimately couldn't even bring myself to finish it.

Overall, Elective Affinities was an immensely disappointing read that I would not recommend to anyone.
Profile Image for Chiara F..
452 reviews24 followers
October 13, 2017
Si deve avere la costanza di leggere fino a 50 pagine dalla fine per poter trovare azione e risoluzione a questo romanzo, che si conclude tragicamente come le più classiche opere romantiche, di cui peraltro Goethe è emblematico padre.
Del resto, se si esclude il finale, tutta l'opera sembra essere un escamotage narrativo per poter esporre attraverso i diversi personaggi gli argomenti cari allo scrittore, temi tipici del Romanticismo, che vanno dall'ammirazione per l'arte e la classicità all'elegia, dall'amore eroico alla passione per i viaggi ed il soprannaturale.
Persino gli estratti del diario di una delle protagoniste, Ottilia, sono succedanei ad aforismi legati alla società e ai comportamenti umani, rappresentando cosi uno spaccato dei manierismi ottocenteschi, nonché una personale visione di Goethe del mondo del suo tempo.
Beandoci delle visioni naturali e degli scenari paesaggistici che sembrano a loro volta incarnarsi e divenire per lo più espressioni dei sentimenti dei personaggi dell'opera medesima, seguiamo il dipanarsi di una storia d'amore che inizialmente si manifesta come un intreccio di coppie le cui affinità si dispiegano naturalmente, si evolve con una nascita inaspettata e grottesca (perchè incarnato di tutti i personaggi coinvolti nel ménage) e termina con un triplo lutto, che coinvolge tragicamente coloro che hanno più lottato contro i sentimenti, in maniera vana ed effimera e solo nell'aldilà possono trovare pace.
Ho centellinato questo testo, a parte nel rush finale dove volevo sapere al più presto come si sarebbe evoluta la vicenda e ho vissuto le ultime pagine con opprimente angoscia e fugaci sospiri: tipiche reazioni da lettrice romantica, sebbene io detesti le opere drammatiche fini a se stesse come questa!
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