Reading with Xi Jinping | Faust

By Zhang Yue, Annemarie Li,Zhao Chen, Ma Tianyi (People's Daily Online) 08:58, April 23, 2022


Faust, a masterpiece by German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, is almost a household name in Germany. It tells the story of the erudite Faust, who is dissatisfied with his life, and which leads him to make a pact with Mephisto, the Devil incarnate. Mephisto offered to provide all that Faust could desire, but at the cost of claiming Faust’s soul upon his death.

Although the plot of Faust is not complex, everyone knows that it is by no means easy to digest the book. Chinese President Xi Jinping read the book with great interest when he was young.

More than four decades later after he read Faust for the first time, Xi told Angela Merkel, then German Chancellor, along with a group of German sinologists during one visit to Germany, that he didn’t quite understand the book when he was young. When he found out that even Germans don’t always quite fully understand the book, he humorously remarked that he was glad that he wasn’t the only one.

Faust is a gem of world literature, and some of its contents have since become expressions in the German language. For example:

The words you’ve bandied are sufficient; 'Tis deeds that I prefer to see.

While man's desires and aspirations stir he cannot choose but err.

(Web editor: Peng Yukai, Du Mingming)


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