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This report is taken from PN Review 27, Volume 9 Number 1, September - October 1982.

Letter from Germany Michael Hulse

Writing in 1886 of the German reception of Goethe, Nietzsche commented: 'He lived and lives only for a few: for the majority he is no more than a fanfare of vanity which from time to time is blasted out across the German border.' This month sees the 150th anniversary of Goethe's death, and the fanfare is being blown with customary vigour. Performances of Goethe's plays are being offered throughout Germany, readings and lectures are being given, exhibitions mounted, television productions screened, and a Goethe postage stamp has been issued. Frankfurt in particular, as Goethe's place of birth, and Weimar, his residence for most of his life, are the centres of the festivities, and it is not without interest that the West German city has contrived to introduce a rather more commercialized note into the events by organizing a nationwide quest for the five most popular poems by Goethe: winners of this competition get an Italian journey of their own. That the bookshops are overflowing with publications by-but mostly, of course, about-Goethe goes without saying; some items, such as the newly streamlined Hamburg edition of the works, or the paperback of Richard Friedenthal's biography, are re-issues, but the majority have been turned out for the occasion. Beck in Munich have published an attractive volume by Jörn Göres titled Goethes Leben in Bilddokumenten, which at DM 79 is over-priced but which makes it easy for an image-oriented age to acquire a ready familiarity with Goethe's life; the material is well-chosen. Zurich's ...


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