Academic journal article Goethe Yearbook

Review Essay: Goethe's Writings as a Minister of State in Saxe-Weimar and Eisenach

Academic journal article Goethe Yearbook

Review Essay: Goethe's Writings as a Minister of State in Saxe-Weimar and Eisenach

Article excerpt

Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Amtliche Schriften. Teill, Geheimes Consilium und andere bis zur Italienreise unternommene Aufgabengebiete. Ed. Reinhard Kluge. Frankfurt/Main: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 1998. 917 pp., 9 ill. Qohann Wolfgang Goethe, Sämtliche Werke: Briefe, Tagebücher und Gespräche. Ed. Friedmar Apel et al. Frankfurter Ausgabe 26.) Teil II, Aufgabengebiete seit der Rückkehr aus Italien. Ed. Irmtraut und Gerhard Schmid. FA 27. Frankfurt/Main: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 1999-1238 pp., 15 ill. Kommentar zu den Amtlichen Schriften. Vol. 1. Ed. Reinhard Kluge. FA 26K. Berlin: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 2011. 667 pp., 11 ill. Kommentar zu den Amtlichen Schriften. Vol. 2. Ed. Gerhard und Irmtraut Schmid. FA 27K. Berlin: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 2011. 1425 pp., 9 ill. Register und Verzeichnisse. Ed. Reinhard Kluge, Gerhard Schmid, and Irmtraut Schmid. FA 26/27R (CD-ROM). Berlin: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 2011.355 pp.

Goethe's writings as a minister of state in Saxe-Weimar and Eisenach have not enjoyed a happy publication history. The comprehensive Weimar Edition of Goethe's works published a selection of them in the last volume of the works section (WA 4.53:231-321), enough only to give a taste of how important they could be for understanding Goethe's poetic works, his character, and his personal development. Various other official writings dribbled into print over the years until after the Second World War, when Thüringen authorities in the Soviet Zone-taking up an idea of the historian Hans Tümmler-decided to inaugurate a complete edition to commemorate Goethe's two-hundredth birthday in 1949, coinciding with the founding of the GDR.1 The first volume appeared slightly late, in 1950, edited by the director of the Thuringian State Archive in Weimar (Thüringisches Hauptstaatsarchiv Weimar, at that time Landeshauptarchiv Weimar), Willy Flach. This volume contained writings from Goethe's first decade in Weimar, when he was most intensively involved in administration as a member of the four-person Geheimes Consilium. The volume took its title from the kind of documents it contained: Amtliche Schriften 045). In other words, only documents that Goethe himself had written or even corrected-even if he had corrected only one letter of one word-were included, along with some contextual documents. Also, the edition related only to Goethe's work in the Consilium, not in the numerous commissions and other bodies (an edition of these works was planned but never carried out). Ignorance of this fact has led Germanists to make unfounded accusations, such as when Albrecht Schöne, in his celebrated FA Faust commentary, chastised Flach's GDR edition for not including a particular document-though that piece was from Goethe's activity in the roads commission, not the Consilium.2 Most lamentably, Flach's first volume did not include a commentary; without the necessary contextualization, the documents were opaque and attracted little attention. Despite these limitations, Flach's volume gave a taste of how intensively Goethe was involved in the administration of the small duchy, from diplomacy right down to such trivialities as soldiers' uniforms. His position kept him from completing any major works between 1776 and 1786 and contributed to his "escape" to Italy.

Flach defected to West Germany and then committed suicide in 1958- his death became a political football in the Cold War, with the FRG and the GDR each blaming the other for it. His successor as editor was Helma Dahl, who had worked with Flach since 1948. Instead of writing the commentary for volume 1, she began work on the texts and commentary of what became volumes 2 and 3, covering the period after Goethe's return from Italy in 1788. These volumes, which appeared in 1968, 1970 (the two parts of volume 2), and 1972 (volume 3), with an index volume for the entire edition (1987), were criticized by HansTümmler and others: Dahl-as one can still hear in Weimar-supposedly wanted to make a name for herself by publishing new documents instead of writing the commentary for volume 1 and, more importantly, had departed from Flach's "ascetic" concept of what constituted an "amtliche Schrift. …

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