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A Novel. Oxford World's Classics
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.
The novel asks whether we have free will or not; more disturbingly, it confronts its characters with the monstrous consequences of their repression of any real life in themselves.
Goethe wrote Elective Affinities when he was sixty and long established as Germany's literary giant. He remained an uneasy and scandalous figure, none the less, and readers of Elective Affinities were profoundly disturbed by its penetrating study of marriage and passion.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
'... superbly translated'
Nicholas Boyle Journal of European Studies, XXIV (1994) 'David Constantine has struck a readable tone that sets the novel in its time without pastiche. Thanks to the fluidity of Constantine's prose, Goethe's story succeeds .... in fascinating and moving us. Constantine has caught the crispness of Goethe's descriptive language. '
Albert Manguel, Observer 'as a study of marital relations and adultery it is strangely topical, with a pitiless psychological insight which is close to Laclos and the French school'
Brian Fallon, Irish Times