Elective Affinities/Die Wahlverwandtschaften

I rather enjoy Goethe’s Die Wahlverwandtschaften, but I don’t know how it would come over to an English reader new to German literature of the eighteenth century.

To quote the Oxford World Classics site on David Constantine’s translation:

In Elective Affinities Goethe conducts an experiment with the lives of people who are living badly. Charlotte and Eduard, aristocracts with little to occupy them, invite Ottilie and the Captain into their lives; against morality, good sense, and conscious volition all four are drawn into relationships as inexorably as if they were substances in a chemical equation.

There have also been translations by R.J. Hollingdale and H.M. Waidson, and others. It’s the Waidson translation that is reviewed in the Observer today:

The translation is good but suffers a bit from the awkwardness of German syntax and Goethe’s very formal style, which can make this new edition seem a struggle at times.

One likes to see the translator acknowledged, but this is odd. And note that ‘new edition’ means ‘1986 translation’.

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