Happy Goethe’s Birthday!

“There is nothing more dreadful than active ignorance”
Maxims and Reflections, Goethe

The little book beside me here has a sticker from a real bookstore with the date on which I bought it. September 29, 2003. I bought it at the San Diego State University Bookstore about a month after school would have started.

Ink drawing of Goethe by Johann Wilhelm Tischbein


I carried it around in my backpack and read it in odd minutes between student meetings, classes, at lunch. AND my backpack then was a pretty amazing thing. I left it behind in Descanso when I made my final exit from my house..


Goethe wrote, “If we go back in history, we are always aware of personalities with whom we could get on and others with whom we should certainly be in conflict.” I met Goethe in the summer of 1998 through his book Italian Journey,  and a friendship immediately ensued, though limited because I could not offer Goethe MY friendship. I have benefited so much from his. So many of his ideas gave language to mine. Others he confirmed and explained.

I’ve written a birthday card to Goethe every year I’ve been on WordPress. This is probably the least inspiring of them, but I feel pressed to get chores finished so my dogs and I can celebrate later with a walk at the slough.


9 thoughts on “Happy Goethe’s Birthday!

  1. I am ashamed, I know next to nothing about Goethe. I uploaded “Die Leiden des jungen Werthers” onto my Kindle with intentions to read it, based on a recommendation of a German friend, and still have not begun. He found it to be a super piece of literature. One day I will do it (of course in original German).

    • Werther is not such a great read for us today. Goethe changed literature with that story, but the Bildung Roman is pretty commonplace now. I honestly thought it was drivel but I know it’s because my understanding of literature is the result of something Goethe started. Even Goethe disliked the book when he was older. It was an albatross around his neck. I think people should read Italian Journey. That’s Goethe the person and it’s interesting to travel with him. He was in his early 30s, suffering from unrequited love, had decided he was wasting his life, didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up (thought he’d missed the mark with writing and that maybe he should be an artist). It’s fun to read and you get a real picture of the world in Goethe’s time.

  2. I think Goethe would appreciate your celebrating him by walking your dogs at the slough. I know I’d like you to celebrate my birthday that way.

    • We didn’t get there — I got tangled up in a small cleaning job that turned into washing the curtains, taking up the rug, washing the pad, moving the sofa etc. etc. But I like it and I have a reading chair by a pretty window and when the snow falls! ❤ How lovely it will be to sit here and read. Tomorrow we'll celebrate Goethe's birthday properly, I hope.

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