Friday 30 September 2022

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von "Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship"

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von "Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship" (German: Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre) - 1795/96

I love classic literature and I love chunky tomes. So this would actually be the perfect book for me. I was very pleased when my reading group chose it for our summer reading.

But I didn't feel very comfortable with the book from the start. The whole story seems interesting, but somehow the author (Goethe!!!) fails to bring the characters to life. It's far too excessive, a number of topics are touched on that have little to do with the story. One could quickly regard it as a philosophical work if it weren't for the story of Wilhelm and his theatre people.

I know that this text is very important, not only for German literature but in general, but I just couldn't make friends with Wilhelm Meister. I can only agree with one other blogger who thought he was sexist. It was probably like that at the time, but that still doesn't mean you have to like it.

All in all, a classic that I will definitely not read again. Too bad.

When I was halfway through the book, the first members of the reading group asked if we wouldn't rather read something else. Instead, we opted for Bernhard Schlink's "Abschiedsfarben" [Colours of Goodbye] which wasn't a bad idea.

In the meeting in September 2022, all members were of the same opinion, as well. The word "waffling" was mentioned.

Book Description:

"Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, a novel of self-realization greatly admired by the Romantics, has been called the first Bildungsroman and has had a tremendous influence on the history of the German novel. The story centers on Wilhelm, a young man living in the mid-1700s who strives to break free from the restrictive world of economics and seeks fulfillment as an actor and playwright. Along with Eric Blackall's fresh translation of the work, this edition contains notes and an afterword by the translator that aims to put this novel into historical and artistic perspective for twentieth-century readers while showing how it defies categorization."


  1. We cannot like all of writer's production, not even the greatest.