In 1830, Goethe’s ‘Chinese-German Book of Seasons and Hours’ — a collection of poems written in 1827 in which he combines motifs from Chinese, German and even Persian literature — was published in the Berliner Musenalmanach. In the wake of his ‘West-Eastern Divan’ (1819), Goethe once again turns, in this text, towards the orient. But in comparison with the traditional topoi of Rococo poetry, the ‘Chinese’ now appears to be far less exotic. A careful reading of the poem cycle shows that Goethe is using the ‘Chinese’ here to create a close relation to a spatial distance, which in turn, and when viewed aesthetically, appears surprisingly near to us. This concept of a ‘close distance’ can be regarded as a poetic programme in Goethe’s late work.
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