The New Sufferings of Young W.
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One of the most talked-about works ever published in the German Democratic Republic! This innovative novel by an East German writer is a worthy companion to the classic it parodies and parallels: Goethe’s The Sufferings of Young Werther. Goethe and J. D. Salinger were the two greatest influences on Edgar Wibeau, “Young W.” Edgar is a 17-year-old with the frustrations of teenagers all over the world, living with the added pressures of an East-bloc state. A model all-GDR boy, the son of a factory director, he suddenly drops out. But not from socialism per se—just from conformity, picky regulations, and official disapproval of jeans, the blues, and girls. Hiding out, he finds and devours an old copy of The Sufferings of Young Werther. From then on he wards off reality with Goethe texts, and young Wibeau’s fate is superimposed on that of Werther like a transparent overlay. It is an ironic and revealing linkage.