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Goethe said that all his works were "one long confession," and certainly into Faust, this greatest masterwork of German literature, on which he worked sixty years, he welded his own search for meaning of existence and of the soul.
From the wager between God and Mephistopheles and the pact Faust makes with the latter—that this genial, urbane devil could have his soul if ever Faust became satisfied with any experience or knowledge Mephistopheles could show him—the drama unfolds in scenes that are human and compelling, that hold the reader by their despair and ecstasy, their tender love, passionate desire and wisdom, but also by their gaiety, humor, and irony. As Faust proceeds with his devilish guide, it is his striving for understanding that becomes important, not the attainment, and in fact this is what saves him in the end.
Part I of Faust, which Goethe published twenty-four years before its sequel, deals with Faust's journey through the everyday world and his love for Gretchen. It is made especially memorable in this translation, which Victor Lange, Chairman of the Department of German at Princeton, has called "certainly the most usable and most appealing Faust translation in English. It is modern without losing the dignity of the original and is perhaps the only translation that conveys something of the freshness and poetic vitality of Goethe's own speech."
About the Author
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) perhaps comes as close as any man to deserving the title of universal genius. Poet, dramatist, critic, scientist, administrator and novelist, he was born at Frankfurt-am-Main in 1749, the son of well-to-do parents with intellectual interests; and he studied at the University of Leipzig and at Strassburg, where he wrote a play which initiated the important Sturm und Drang movement. During the next five years he practiced law in Frankfurt and wrote The Sorrows of Young Werther, a remarkable novel autobiographical of one side of Goethe's nature. In 1775 he went to visit the court of the young Duke of Weimar, and, except for an extended journey to Italy a decade later, stayed there the rest of his life, filling at one time or another all the major posts in the Weimar government. Here a close friendship with Schiller developed, and here he conducted important scientific experiments and published a steady stream of books of the highest order and in many different forms. He became the director of the Weimar Theatre in 1791 and made it the most famous in Europe. His life held a number of ardent loves, which he celebrated in lyrics that are compared to Shakespeare's, and in 1806 he married Christiane Vulpius whom he had loved for many years. In later life Goethe became a generous patron of younger writers, including Byron and Carlyle. In 1790 he published the first version of his life work as Faust, a Fragment, but Part I of the completed Faust did not appear until 1808, while Part II was finished and published only a few months before Goethe's death in 1832.
C. F. MacIntyre (1890-1967) said of himself: "My background includes the Scotch Highlands, the bluegrass hills of Kentucky and as much of Europe as I could get at various times." His mother was a student of Latin and Greek but she taught him to read Baudelaire early; his father was more interested in France and Egypt, and he read aloud to his son most of the world's classics. In late adolescence Maclntyre made many canoe and sailing trips, usually alone. He also did about 5000 miles of hoboing. He took a Ph.D. at the University of Marburg, where he fell under the spell of Gothic architecture, plainsong and stained glass. Besides his translation of of Faust, Part I, he published translations of Fifty Selected Poems by Rilke, One Hundred Poems from Les Fleurs du Mal, and Rilke's Life of the Virgin Mary. He was also known for his volumes of original verse, Cafes and Cathedrals, The Black Bulls and Poems.
Certainly the most usable and most appealing Faust translation in English.
— Victor Lange
Goethe is generally recognized as the greatest German of all time, and Faust as his most important single work.
— Walter Kaufmann