Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther is often quoted in literary courses as an example of ‘Bildungsroman’. Bildungsroman’ refers to a novel which charts the education and development of its hero or heroine as she/he comes to maturity. An English example of this kind of novel would be Dickens’ David Copperfield. There is often no requirement to read The Sorrows of Young Werther you just need to know that it is a fine example of ‘bildungsroman’.
However, at my local flea market on Sunday I came across a paperback copy for 20p, I thought I would give it a go. When I got hope and inspected the paperback I found that it was from an American publisher called signet classics with a cover price of 60 cents. But this is not the interesting part of the story.
There was once a social experiment where books were left on trains and buses for people to read and they where encouraged that when they read the book they were to call a number which was written inside the cover, so the boffins could chart the journey of the books, then leave the book on a train again for somebody else to read and restart the cycle over and over again. This book reminded me of that experiment because written inside was an inscription – “Shiela Collins, April 11th 1964, Hempstead, New York.”
Well Shiela if your reading, I have your book on the East coast of England. New York to Lowestoft in 44 years. Now that’s some journey.