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Elective Affinities

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  3,685 ratings  ·  185 reviews
Eduard and Charlotte are an aristocratic couple who live a harmonious but idle life in their estate. But the peace of their existence is thrown into chaos when two visitors - Eduard's friend the Captain and Charlotte's passionate young ward Ottilie - provoke unexpected attraction and forbidden love.

Taking its title from the principle of elective affinities - the theory th
Paperback, 304 pages
Published October 26th 1978 by Penguin Classics (first published 1809)
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Moderately Underrated Books (1,000 - 10,000 ratings)
170th out of 1,736 books — 483 voters
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German Classics
78th out of 192 books — 96 voters

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”Sono gli amanti, la loro isola fluttua alla deriva
verso morti di cespuglio, verso porti
che fra lenzuola si aprono.
Si disordina tutto attraverso gli amanti,
tutto trova la sua cifra giocata;
loro, però, neppure sanno che
mentre rotolano nell’amara arena
che è loro c’è una pausa nell’opera del nulla,
e che il tigre è un giardino che gioca.”

[da “Gli amanti” di Julio Cortázar]

”Le affinità elettive” è un romanzo chimico-metafisico: i personaggi sono in bilico tra due epoche, si intrattengono in moderne d
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 ...more
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 so
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 interpe
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 ind
Dec 20, 2014 Wanda rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wanda by: Karen
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 con
Die natürliche Anziehungskraft (Ist es noch Lust? Ist es schon Liebe?) hält nichts auf. Nur ist das in diesem Roman mal nichts Positives. Goethe schildert in Die Wahlverwandtschaften anschaulich den Konflikt zwischen gesellschaftlichen Erwartungen und der Leidenschaft, dem Trieb, der Chemie, die zwischen den Menschen herrscht. Tatsächlich ist der Titel des Romans aus dem Bereich der Chemie entnommen (Goehte war schließlich ein echter Renaissancemensch, und Hobbynaturwissenschaftler).

In diesem Ro
It was interesting. Goethe wrote this book in part as a meditation and exploration of the scientific developments that were happening at the time. Specifically he was interested in chemistry and the law of attraction. "The tendency of those elements which, when they come into contact, at once take hold of, and act on one another, we call 'affinity', states one of the characters in the book. So Goethe applies these laws that are being discovered in chemistry to human relationships, and so creates ...more
Analysis of the meaning and difficulties of marriage, especially the effect of other people. The first third is more thoughtful and analytical; the remainder slightly more plot-driven. The mannered, detached and somewhat unnatural style (though apparently typical of a common German novel form of the time) is slightly reminiscent of Ivy Compton-Burnett, and makes the whole experience rather unengaging.
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 somewh
Elective Affinities comprises the exploration of a simple conceit -- that human relationships are governed by forces similar to those acting in chemical reactions -- executed meticulously and gloriously. Starting from the relatively stable equilibrium of an apparently happy marriage, new characters are introduced into the experiment (set in the crucible of the grounds and house of a German estate), and things fall apart.

The novel is impeccably structured and paced, and has some of the most perfe
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Rich couple, pass middle-age. For both, their second marriage. The lady has a young, beautiful foster-daughter and the gentleman has a friend, a former military man (the Captain). Both come to live with them.

The gentleman and the foster-daughter fall in love with each other; the lady and the Major do likewise. From here, Goethe developed his story interspersed with quotable aphorisms about love, marriage, man, woman, relationships, religion and what not. It might have provided scandal and titill
I think the translation is partly to blame for why I didn't particularly enjoy this one: the language is awkward and stilted, with wooden dialogue and unnecessarily archaic terms. The plot, though, isn't especially well handled either. A couple invites to separate houseguests to stay with them, the husband's friend and the wife's foster niece, and finds their marriage rocked by their attractions to the newcomers. The novella is apparently meant to be a meditation on the power of marriage versus ...more
Kastoori Barua
This book is steady with its pace and the plot has been very skillfully and maturely executed, but my personal opinion is that The Sorrows of Young Werther is a much more powerful work than this (perhaps because the romantic sentiments of Werther happen to be exponentially more powerful that Eduard's and Ottilie's).
Nevertheless, this book is a very splendid realistic rendering of the country-side aristocracy. Though, not as gripping as The Sorrows of Young Werther, the way, Goethe has introduce
Che strazio.
Barbara Ellison

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.
È un romanzo sul matrimonio e sul divorzio, certo, ma anche, anzi, soprattutto sulla ricerca della felicità.
Ottilia mi ha colpito molto: in un primo momento mi è sembrata una ragazza vuota e superficiale, ma in realtà nel corso della storia la si scopre profonda, intuitiva, intelligente e acuta.
Le sue pagine di diario sono stupende, così dolci e così vere!

Io ho, onestamente, quasi il "terrore" di non saper apprezzare i classici: quelli che ho letto (forse troppo pochi per tirare già le somme) no
I forgot that I've read this before and only after reading the first pages I remembered it. Doesn't speak for the persistence of the book.

Here's what stayed in my mind two weeks after finishing it:
- Love life was as confusing 200 years ago as it is today. Men always were on the lookout for young women.
- Analogies between chemical elements and coupling activities of humans can be drawn.
- People had strange pastimes at the time. Posing on a stage in an effort to depict famous paintings?
- Two out o
Geeky Bookers - Ilaria
Dopo Persuasione di Jane Austen avevo ancora voglia di un libro di quel periodo storico, ma volevo cambiare autore.

Devo dire che il romanzo in sè non è male, ma i dialoghi e il diario di Ottilia, fanno veramente calare un pò l'interesse e i personaggi non mi hanno nè convinta nè impressionata o quanto meno suscitato simpatia: nulla di nulla.
Ottilia non mi sembra poi tutta questa gran santa, anzi spesso e volentieri l'avrei presa a schiaffi. -__-"
Carlotta cerca una felicità tardiva con il suo a
Splendido e sorprendente. Traduzione del 1957 piena di fascino. A mio modo di vedere, la storia della progressiva distruzione di una donna sensibile, silenziosamente ribelle al costume del tempo, da parte dei suoi compagni di vita, che dietro alla maschera dell'affetto e dell'amore la conducono a perdere anche lei la sua (pur fragile) identità. Un dramma che rivela molto sulle dinamiche dei rapporti umani.
Reading this for the first time when I was a little older, it still didn't fare better with me than Werther did.
From those I have read, I must admit that I don't see Goethe as a great novellist.
"Die Wahlverwandtschaften" - "Elective Affinities" is Goethe's marriage novel, of a couple that married relatively late in life but now finds that both partners fall in love with somebody else. In its day, the novel caused an outcry because of the clearly mentioned and described act of adultery, but oth
Maria  (Scratchbook)
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La storia di per sé non è interessante; i personaggi agiscono e si esprimono in maniera esasperata (ed esasperante!) e, a differenza di quanto mi accadde con "I dolori del giovane Werter" ,non ho provato per loro né empatia né simpatia. Tuttavia, man mano che andavo avanti, ho capito (o meglio, credo di aver capito) dove risiede la grandezza di questo classico: i dialoghi tra i personaggi, dove Romanticismo e Illuminismo si scontrano senza mai però risultare così inconciliabili, e gli aforismi p ...more
Nunca dejará de sorprenderme la capacidad que tienen los clásicos, a pesar del tiempo que hace que se han escrito, para tratar temas que son atemporales y que siguen de actualidad. ¿Y qué hay más atemporal que las pasiones humanas? En este libro están protagonizadas por personajes, que amarás y odiarás por momentos, de realistas que son.
Un libro muy recomendable.
Philip Lane
A very interesting approach to human relationships based on a chemical metaphor - and of course my immediate association with chemistry is explosions, which is indeed what occurs here. The main characters are all well-off and spend a lot of time making important building and landscaping improvements but this is not reflected in their relationships which become more and more chaotic. It is an unusual portrait of four people who at all times are respectful and pleasant to each other despite the st ...more

I'm sure this is a masterpiece of sorts, and bristling with interesting metaphors and parallels and mirrored storylines. But fostering narrative interest, creating interesting characters, these, surely, are matters beneath the great German author's dignity.

And the works age is no excuse. He wrote this roughly in the same time Jane Austen started to write her novels, and Jonathan Swift, Henry Fielding and Laurence Sterne had already been celebrated for decades for theirs. People did know
Scritto sempre meravigliosamente bene. La prima parte, quella relativa alle due coppie e alla scoperta delle loro affinità elettive, è sicuramente più intrigante e coinvolgente. La contraddizione tra razionalità e sentimento mi ha accompagnata per tutta la lettura, lasciandomi nella totale incapacità di prendere una posizione. E' giusto che le coppie si dissolvano? Non saprei...

La seconda parte mi è sembrata meno interessante e più prolissa. La lettura è accompagnata dall'ansia di scoprire cosa
Maria Adelaide
Opera decisamente romantica, tragicamente romantica. Non solo perché la vera e vittoriosa protagonista è la Natura con le sue leggi d'attrazione e distruzione, ma anche per quel tumulto umano che essa provoca, per quella volontà dell'uomo di innalzarsi sopra essa e di opporvi la Ragione.
E pare sia questo il nocciolo del romanzo: unioni che la razionalità non vuole riconoscere e legittimare, amori naturali che per il motivo stesso di non essere vissuti provocheranno conseguenze nefaste. Pare che
Monty Milne
This is a great deal more interesting than the dreary Wilhelm Meister, or the far shorter but equally tedious Young Werther. Goethe's idea - that love has a chemical basis - is now generally accepted (though of course it isn't JUST down to chemistry - what a dismal world it would be if that were true). Of course, we know right from the start that it will all end badly, but the narrative delivers many pleasurable twists and turns to get there, not all of them expected.

However, I have a sense tha
It's hard to rate or judge the work of a true master at the apex of his craft, but for Goethe, I did not find this book quite so dazzling as I expected. Still, it was consummate, powerful, and intricate as one would hope overall. I feel it's necessary for anyone interested in German literature and especially in Goethe's career and it helps understand how both the author saw crucial social institutions like marriage and how those institutions were seen in German society.
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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer. George Eliot called him "Germany's greatest man of letters... and the last true polymath to walk the earth." Goethe's works span the fields of poetry, drama, literature, theology, humanism, and science. Goethe's magnum opus, lauded as one of the peaks of world literature, is the two-part drama Faust. Goethe's other well-known literary works include h ...more
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