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Elective Affinities

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3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  3,005 ratings  ·  151 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
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Paperback, 304 pages
Published October 26th 1978 by Penguin Classics (first published 1809)
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Faust by Johann Wolfgang von GoetheThe Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von GoetheThe Metamorphosis by Franz KafkaDie Räuber by Friedrich SchillerSteppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
German Classics
74th out of 191 books — 78 voters
D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths by Ingri d'AulaireWhere Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. ForsterThe October Country by Ray BradburySpeak, Memory by Vladimir NabokovDombey and Son by Charles Dickens
Moderately Underrated Books (1,000 - 10,000 ratings)
168th out of 1,629 books — 417 voters


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Community Reviews

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Fewlas
”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
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Wanda
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
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Vasha7
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
Boris
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
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Reni
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
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Ian
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
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kasia
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
Georgia
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
Jos
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
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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
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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
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Susanne
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
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Maria
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Federica79
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
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
Frank
Pffffff.

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
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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
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Ângela Serrão
Não costumo ser tão rápida a dar a opinião sobre um livro mas em relação a este livro tive a certeza do que diria. Este foi o primeiro contacto que tive com uma obra de narração de Goethe e começo por dizer que adorei. A riqueza do texto é extensa e sou obrigada a discordar com o meu professor de ICLA quando diz que Goethe não é 1 romântico; talvez não seja por completo mas grande parte da essência deste é. As personagens caem nos estereotipos da época, desde os traços de personalidade até à man ...more
kingshearte
Perhaps the most challenging thing about reading books in translation is to separate the translation from the story itself. This, of course, as anyone who knows anything about translation theory can tell you, is never fully possible, as the translation is all bound up in the content, and that’s how it should be. However, as a general rule, if the translation itself distracts from the storytelling, something’s probably not as it should be. And that, unfortunately, was the case with this translati ...more
Procyon Lotor
Giardinaggio nel vivaio della vita. Le affinit� elettive (metafora chimica in merito alle preferenze che alcune sostanze mostrano per legarsi o meno e che nel periodo si incominciava a tabellare) si apre in modo esplicitamente teatrale, presentazione dei personaggi con la loro entrata in scena favorita da dialoghi autoesplicativi. L'uomo (Eduard, ex-Otto) e la donna (Charlotte) sono benestanti e nobili, integrati e sereni e in buona salute. Il trucco scenico di eliminare i nei e le manchevolezze ...more
Brigid
This book should come with the warning that it is NOT in fact a novel, but instead some obscure long-form that was popular at the time in Germany and whose conventions are basically the opposite of what makes a good novel: the characters are one-dimensional props whose actions are dictated by plot rather than character, artificiality is preferred to naturalism, and a whole host of other things that I can't now remember (it's been awhile since I read it), but that explained a lot. Goethe wasn't s ...more
Iwokeinrelief
I read this one because of it's fairly frequent mentions in The Tin Drum.

Roughly as good as The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is, in a way, disappointing, as I expected this to be better if only for the significant time that passed between the composition of the two books.

That's not to say that it is not a great book, it is, it just feels almost like a continuation of Werther. I suppose in a way it is a continuation of Werther, as I believe this is also supposed to somewhat based on Goethe's o
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Emily
One of the few novels that successfully uses fiction to play with a philosophical system -- so much so that you can still enjoy it without paying attention to that, if you couldn't care less. And as far as Goethe's fiction goes, "Elective Affinities" is far superior to "The Sorrows of Young Werther" in every conceivable way.
Mia
I liked that book way more than I thought I would!

It was a bit funny that, with the characters and the scenery (and all those books from russian novelists I've read), I always pictured it to be somewhere in Russia and I had to force myself to think that this is actually Germany :D

Oh well.

The relations in between the 4 central characters in that book are very interesting and all of them seem have interesting personalities. While they are not as deep as in Realism later in the 19th century, it cer
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André
Maybe it should be for the best that we read this book, maybe for a person of great ideas about marriage and being a good partner in your relationship. I recommend it for people that like noting the most overlooked aspects of a life with a person you love.
alessandra falca
Un classico che mi mancava. E quanti me ne mancano ancora..."Le Affinità Elettive" è un bellissimo titolo per un romanzo. Il titolo deriva dal mondo chimico in realtà: cioè dalle proprietà che hanno alcuni elementi di legarsi ad altri. Di essere affini ad alcune sostanze piuttosto che ad altre.
La storia di una coppia e della loro relazione rispetto ad altre coppie.
Goethe riesce in una maniera leggera e nello stesso tempo particolare a raccontare della psicologia delle relazioni. Della storia del
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Martina
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Asa
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
...more
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.
Laura
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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
More about Johann Wolfgang von Goethe...
Faust: First Part The Sorrows of Young Werther Faust Faust, Part Two Iphigenie auf Tauris

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Niemand ist mehr Sklave, als der sich für frei hält, ohne es zu sein.

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”
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