Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The German Classics of the Nineteen and Twentieth Centuries

Published in 1913, The German Classics of the Nineteen and Twentieth Centuries is the first in a series of twenty volumes, available as free downloads here.

That's right.  Twenty of 'em.  If that sounds like a daunting prospect, bear in mind, these twenty volumes are intended as an introduction to German literature.

Better get cracking now, otherwise you'll never be able to move onto the following 100 years.

The editor's preface begins:

"It is surprising how little the English-speaking world knows of German literature of the nineteenth century. Goethe and Schiller found their herald in Carlyle; Fichte's idealistic philosophy helped to mold Emerson's view of life; Amadeus Hoffmann influenced Poe; Uhland and Heine reverberate in Longfellow; Sudermann and Hauptmann appear in the repertory of London and New York theatres--these brief statements include nearly all the names which to the cultivated Englishman and American of to-day stand for German literature.

The German Classics of the Nineteen and Twentieth Centuries has been planned to correct this narrow and inadequate view. Here for the first time English readers will find a panorama of the whole of German literature from Goethe to the present day; here for the first time they will find the most representative writers of each period brought together and exhibited by their most representative works; here for the first time an opportunity will be offered to form a just conception of the truly remarkable literary achievements of Germany during the last hundred years.

For it is a grave mistake to assume, as has been assumed only too often, that, after the great epoch of (Part II). Classicism and Romanticism in the early decades of the nineteenth century, Germany produced but little of universal significance, or that, after Goethe and Heine, there were but few Germans worthy to be mentioned side by side with the great writers of other European countries. True, there is no German Tolstoy, no German Ibsen, no German Zola--but then, is there a Russian Nietzsche, or a Norwegian Wagner, or a French Bismarck? Men like these, men of revolutionary genius, men who start new movements and mark new epochs, are necessarily rare and stand isolated in any people and at all times. The three names mentioned indicate that Germany, during the last fifty years, has contributed a goodly share even of such men. Quite apart, however, from such men of overshadowing genius and all-controlling power, can it be truly said that Germany, since Goethe's time, has been lacking in writers of high aim and notable attainment?"

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