There is no doubt that Goethe must be classified as the outstanding genius of German literature. The question remains which of his works is the most important one. For some readers it is WILHELM MEISTERS LEHRJAHRE (WILLIAM MEISTER’S APPRENTICESHIP), the prototype of the educational novel or BILDUNGSROMAN. For others it is FAUST, the perennial favorite of German theater audiences. But many Goethe scholars usually place the CONVERSATIONS WITH ECKERMANN close to the top of the list. It seems that the absence of any requirement for literary form permits a greater appreciation of the universal knowledge which Goethe possessed. It is said also that Goethe was the only man of his time who was able to absorb the major part of knowledge which was then known to mankind. The power of a truly informed man, one gifted with unusual creative abilities, is demonstrated in these conversations. Thus the literary world is grateful to the efforts of Eckermann, who recorded these talks which cover the last ten years of Goethe’s long life. Eckermann critics claim that he is attempting to dramatize everything, and that a few entries are fictitious. These objections may be true, since Eckermann worshiped his idol, and some of the entries were made fifteen years after the death of Goethe.
Still, Eckermann’s conversations constitute the most complete record of the kind available. The shortcomings, obvious in any attempt to arrive...
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