Death in Venice

ISBN: 0060727527
ISBN 13: 9780060727529
By: Thomas Mann Simon Callow Michael Henry Heim Michael Cunningham

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About this book

The world-famous masterpiece by Nobel laureate Thomas Mann here in a new translation by Michael Henry Heim.Published on the eve of World War I, a decade after Buddenbrooks had established Thomas Mann as a literary celebrity, Death in Venice tells the story of Gustav von Aschenbach, a successful but aging writer who follows his wanderlust to Venice in search of spiritual fulfillment that instead leads to his erotic doom.In the decaying city, besieged by an unnamed epidemic, he becomes obsessed with an exquisite Polish boy, Tadzio. "It is a story of the voluptuousness of doom," Mann wrote. "But the problem I had especially in mind was that of the artist's dignity."

Reader's Thoughts


Thomas Mann's prize winning novella is a classic because it continues to reveal itself to readers decades after its publication. This is the tale it told me. After a storied career championing reason and reserve, a German writer in his sixth decade leaves the familiar for a trip to the mysterious island of Venice. Along the way he meets three men who physically resemble each other and are confrontational toward him. These everyday occurances are foreboding of what is ahead.Something unexplainable, completely out of character happens. He observes, with intense feelings, a Polish boy who is young and beautiful vacationing at the same time. Our character experiences an unfamiliar part of himself that is repressed, emotional and regressed. His thought life begins to revolve around this impossible object of desire.His life is threatened by a disease uncommon to the island but spreading quickly leaving bodies in its wake. There is escape, but not for the man who has embraced the object of his desire at every level of his being.The story is a universal one. At the end of our lives of tradition and obligation, we may be warned of the end. With these early warnings, we remember the time when we were most alive, our youth. We may even try to revive our looks, as our thoughts are focused on the time when we were effortlessly our best. Emotion overcomes rational thought, and the intensity that has been held at bay for a lifetime overwhelms us.The choice our character makes to stay among the dead and focus on his earlier self represents the control we have even at this most critical moment of our lives. The bliss of vitality beckons us to another, freer place. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Steve mitchell

The book was short and sweet, so I will follow suit.Plot-An older famous writer, Ashenbach, decides to go on holiday to Venice the only place in the world he can truly relax.While on holiday he sees a young Polish boy and falls in love(?) I dont know how you fall in love just from sight! He follows this little kid around and obviously he wants to approach him and then you should read the book!This is almost a Lolita before Lolita, and its not only pedophilia but homosexual pedophilia, I am surprised this wasnt blacklisted everywhere, or maybe it was but just not as famous.Mann uses intertextuation, something I had seen before but did not know it had a name or was a style, he uses Platos Phaedrus to discuss erotic love! I was intrigued by the authors thoughts on writing and fame:"The happiness of writers is the thought that can be entirely emotion and the emotion that can be entirely thought. Such a pulsing thought, such a precise emotion belonged to the solitary one then: namely that nature was shaken with delight when the mind paid homage to beauty." This makes Aschenbach want to write suddenly. To keep his mind off of the young boy.I also loved the description of wandering around Venice and following the boy using gondolas.A great quick read that gives me the urge to read Manns other books from the list.


A good book to be taught in tandem with Lolita, methinks. A literary achievement with the psychology of Tolstoy and a Greek commitment to The Story; and that is not the only thing about this book that is 'Greek'. A treatise on Death, Life, Sex, Desire, and Fear, Death in Venice is both enticing and terrifying, and for the self-same reason. Here is the face of wretched animal man, teeth bared, cloudy desperation mocking his vision. Mann's succinct and powerful images are always reversed: the raw and brutal emotion herein is become feral, mitigated only by how it twists back upon itself as only such a morally indistinct, labyrinthine mass may so twist.Eminently pleasing and disturbing, this battle between the barely-restrained Epicurean and the resignedly Absurdist meets the latter's comic fruition in the former's faux-tragic inaccessibility.


** spoiler alert ** Thomas Mann's famous novella tells the story of Gustav von Aschenbach, an internationally renowned writer who travels to Venice and becomes erotically obsessed with a young boy. This obsession leads eventually, as the title would suggest, to his death, both metaphorically and literally.The character of Aschenbach is a fascinating one; he is brilliant, devoted to his work, and he sees the world through the eyes of a learned artist who lives entirely in the mind. Given Mann's interest in Freudian psychology, it is difficult not to see this as the story of the return of the repressed: his ascetic and discipline lifestyle -- the key to his literary success and reputation -- finally cracks as the libidic (is that a word?) energies so long sublimated into artist endeavors take control, manifesting in his pederastic desire for the young Polish boy, Tadzio, a representative, perhaps, to Aschenbach of his own lost, fragile sexuality, childish and immature in its development. At the same time, Aschenbach's sexual desires are bound up with a death drive; his trip to Venice is spurred by an imposing and frightening figure staring at him from a cemetery, and Tadzio himself is described as delicate and sickly. Through Aschenbach's obsessive pursuit of Tadzio -- a pursuit that, despite its passion, remains physically unconsummated -- Mann explores the paradoxical connections between Eros and Thanatos, the drive to experience and express life in a moment of passion and the desire to abandon that life, the loss of self in erotic union.Because the narrative operates from the perspective of Aschenbach (although it is not a first-person narrator), the writing is extremely erudite. Aschenbach is an intellectual, and even in his most passionate moments sees the world through the lens of his artistic and philosophical pursuits. The novella is filled with allusions to and discussions of classical myth and thought, in particular Plato's works on love and desire. The extremely refined art and artifice of the work is in keeping with Aschenbach's character, although it also means that the work often feels rather detached; we don't inhabit Aschenbach's mind, we understand it intellectually, through the conceptual vocabulary he himself has built up through his life. That's not to say that it is not compelling, but it isn't a "page-turner" in any traditional sense. As a reader, I felt motivated not by passion, but by the intellectual interest to study Aschenbach's passion, to understand it and find out how it would resolve (or not resolve) itself. It works, definitely -- it reproduces in the reader the mind of its central character and with its attendant conflicts, tensions, and flaws -- but it isn't a work that I would see myself returning to repeatedly to read for enjoyment. It is, I think, literature as philosophy, and as such, it requires a thoughtful, philosophical, and somewhat detached mood.

Fatema Alammar

أعجبت بقوة نثر توماس مان، لكني أميل لروايات أكثر ثراءا. والمقدمة؟ أعتقد أن هناك مشكلة تتعلّق بمقدمة الكتاب، تطلّبت مني شيئاً من الصبر لأنجذب لسحر الرواية ..يسافر "الفنان الشائخ" إلى البندقية. إننا ندخل إلى ذهنه ونعيش تعقيدات أفكاره، قلق روحه، ارتباكه، انتشاءه برؤية وجه فتى جميل، فلسفته ورؤيته الخاصة للجمال بالتزامن شاهدت فيلم Death in Venice المستوحى من رواية مان، الفيلم جميل جداً وأداء الممثل الذي قام بدور "آشنباخ" رهيب.


Jesam li ja jedina kojoj se čini da je ova knjiga više o umjetnosti i opsesiji nego o nekakvoj pedofiliji? Mislim nekako nisam primijetila nekakav seksualni aspekt u opsesiji protagonista- nekako mi se više čini kako je ta opsesija sama sebi svrhom, nešto kao i umjetnost, možda nekakva metafora za umjetnost. Nije mi se baš činilo da je protagonist zaljubljen u tog dječaka ili da se istražuje neka neprikladna veza između djeteta i odrasle osobe. Nije baš da pokušava uspostaviti nekakav odnos sa dječakom, samo ga prati. No, dobro i to praćenje je izvor mogućeg uznemirenja za dijete. Ako se radi o još nečemu, zašto nam pisac to ne otkrije kad već otkriva sve ostalo o protagonistu? Možda je i to dio djela, nisam sigurna.Čini mi se da se ovdje više radi o nekakvom sukobu razuma i strasti, nekakvog upita može li se to dvoje udružiti. Možda je tu i neka aluzija na stare grke. Čini mi se da je dječak više nekakva metafora za ljepotu, za umjetnost bez intelekta. Sjetim se odmah Doriana Graya. To u protagonistu koji je pisac i čovjek intelekta (da ne kažemo i Nijemac) izaziva nekakvu krizu. O čemu se tu točno radi? Možda čak i sukob između karaktera južne i zapadne Europe? Možda se južni narodi bolje nauče živjeti sa strastima upravo zato jer im se ne opiru, dok jednog intelektualca sjevera pometu jer je nepripremljen na njih? Ne znam što je autor htio reći, nisam baš stručnjak za Thomasa Manna. Ne razumijem ovaj roman sasvim, da budem iskrena, ali znam da nema baš previše zajedničkog sa filmskom verzijom i da nije sada nekakav pokušaj da se opravda nešto što se ne može opravdati, kao što je zlostavljanje djece.


The main character of this novella, a writer called Aschenbach, seriously got rather creepy with his fixation on a beautiful young Polish boy called Tadzio while on vacation in Venice, but Mann is amazing the way he captures Aschenbach. It seems so true to life as a characterisation to me. I could see Aschenbach as a T.S. Eliot: a cold and sterile intellectual artist type of person who writes perfect things. Aschenbach's romantic fixation on the young boy can either be taken as straight forward paedophile or symbolic of how giving free to passions and 'living' life is full of problems and constraints, and so reflective of Aschenbach's existence, that obviously, he could not have a robustly healthy and balanced approach to.A beautifully and aristocratically written novella, like a perfect fresco or fountain in the Classical style, and there is some perfect symbolism too, with the decay of cholera and the ending.


I'd like to read another book by Thomas Mann in order to determine whether Death in Venice is extremely well written, or just an a-typical production of tired and old fashioned writing. If his other works are stylistically different, this book would be a triumph, as the writing not only emphasises the protagonist's stuffy and conservative lifestyle - it serves to create an extreme dislike for the man.The story is interesting enough and I haven't any real complaint or praise for the actual plot. The fact that I ended up thinking the lead was a narcissistic, bourgeois, conservative and egotistical type isn't a problem in itself, but I'd like to know why I received that impression.As I said above: if the style is indicative of Thomas Mann's writing, it results in this book being nothing more than out-dated tripe. However, were I to learn that the style served the character and was purposeful, I would consider it a wonderfully written work. Unfortunately I am inclined to sit with the former, as it doesn't appear to be quite so intentional.Personally I don't consider the themes to be all that interesting or disturbing. The fact that an old man falls in love with the image of a young boy seems to create some debate about sexual intentions, but I hardly think it was a sexual admiration. There's a lot of musing about the boy's perfection and comparisons with classical gods and romantic notions regarding the potential and beauty of the artistic muse. However, most of this content seemed self-gratifying and basically try-hard. It's one thing to write romantically; it's another to do it without appearing to be full of shit.Alternatively, the theme surrounding the old man himself was quite well executed. There's a lot of effort put into ensuring that the reader is well aware of just how lonely and solitary he is (often even referring to him as "the solitary"). Despite the effort, it doesn't come off as a whole lot more than simply trying to prove the point to the reader. I almost wanted to slap the author for reminding me so often about just how alone the poor sod was.I can appreciate why a lot of readers find this to be a master-work, but for me it was entirely lost. Like Dickens, I recognise and respect the book for what it accomplishes, but at the same time I never got the surge to read on and continued reading to the end with some hopeful determination that was never fulfilled.PS: The ratings I give books are based on my own enjoyment of the experience - I use the suggested style of rating that appears when you hover over the stars. Hence, while I realise a book like this may deserve some respect, I could not say that I "liked it", as a three star rating would suggest.

Philippe Malzieu

I acknowledge to have read the book after having seen the film of Visconti. Difficult to forget the Lido, Dick Bogarde and the adagio of the 5° symphony of Malher. There is all in this short account: life and death, old age and youth, the desire and homosexuality, the beauty and the ugliness, there is all.Aschenbach wishes Tadzio because his beauty fascinate him. Allusions to Greece are there to attenuate the homosexual aspect. But there is a risk to see only that and the film of Visconti is there for something.Epidemy is here. The danger is there around threatening. It kills and Aschenbach himself will die about it. This brilliant company isolated on the beach from the Lido is encircled. The cholera approaches. This book was published in 1912. Difficult not to see there a metaphor on the First World War.


This is a book which I really struggled to finish as on numerous occasions was so tempted to just pack it in. I was certainly grateful that it only ran to 64 pages. I found myself reading nearly every paragraph twice as each seemed so conveluted. I believe in free speech and not in censorship so have no real problem with the subject matter even if it does smack of paedophilia, which to every right-minded person should be abhorant. All the same I am amazed that a book like this was ever published but then perhaps paedophilia was not as well publized by the press as it is today. I believe that Mann himself struggled with his own sexuality so perhaps this book is a symbol of that inner struggle.I did not like the main character much and felt him conceited and self-centred. The writing style and plot was painfully slow. I am not too great on my Greek mythology so struggled to the relevance on more than one occasion and the ending seemed somewhat inadequate.On the whole not my type of book and not one that will live long in the memory. If truth be told it felt like a book written with the express aim of winning a literary prize, to satisfy the so called intelligenzia rather than for the pleasure of the general public but at least it was so short.

Fatema Hassan , bahrain

الموت في البندقية رواية قصيرة لتوماس مان سردها رشيق و مكثف ، سريع بشكلٍ لا يتنافى مع العذوبة الروائي الشهير الخمسيني الذي يذهب ليروّح عن ذاته في البندقية ينصدم بمشاعر مختلطة جديدة كلية عليه كان في السابق يزدري من يعبر عنها بشكل صريح ، مشاعر قد تتلاشى أمامها القيم لكنه يحاول فصل اعجابه بالفتى البولوني تادزيو كتمثال جميل في شكله الصوري عن أي رغبات فعلية قد تجرفه لما لا يتماشى وسمعته التي كدّ لبنائها ، و يؤذي روحه .كيف يترفع عن الانحطاط و روحه تتناهبها الشيطانية من ملائكيتها ، فتركن تلك الروح تلقائيًا لشيطانها مما يشوهها بشكلٍ حتمي و يزهقها تدريجيا الجدير بالذكر أن الموت هو البندقية القدرية كلية القدرة على الجسد بينما تبقى الروح مترفعة أو منحطة بعيدًا عن أي مرمى يسيطر عليه الموت ، فموت الأرواح يتعلق بنواياها تلك حكاية غوستاف اشنباخ و الفتى البولوني

Ahmed Azimov

توماس مان تقدم للدور القيادي في التعبير عن الجمال عند العدميين الروايه ماده دسمه آمن بها فيسكونتي تماما قبل أن يبدعها في صورة فنية فاقت الوصف ، توماس مان العظيم الفشيخ استفاض في تأملاته على لسان حال عجوزه اشنباخ المهترئ - إن صح التعبير -


Gustav Aschenbach è un anziano scrittore di successo che ha dedicato la sua vita alle fatiche della scrittura, sacrificando così diletti e piaceri. Si reca a Venezia per un soggiorno estivo e, nell’hotel dove alloggia, la sua attenzione viene catturata da una nobile famiglia polacca, in particolare dall’adolescente Tadzio. Dapprima Aschenbach sembra solo ammirarne l’efeba bellezza che incarna i principi estetici classicheggianti che hanno sempre ispirato la sua opera. Con il passare dei giorni, però, l’attrazione diventa di tipo carnale, portando lo scrittore a rivisitare non solo la sua concezione dell’arte, ma della sua stessa vita. Quando lo scrittore viene a conoscenza dell’epidemia di colera che si sta diffondendo a Venezia, decide di restare per poter continuare ad ammirare l’oggetto del suo desiderio e sprofonda così in quell’abisso che aveva sempre temuto.“La morte a Venezia” racconta la crisi del magistero della scrittura, la morte dello scrittore borghese. Tra i tanti dati reali che stanno alla base del racconto, infatti, uno in particolare è significativo dell’intento di Thomas Mann. L’idea alla base di questo racconto, almeno agli inizi, si era infatti sovrapposta ad un altro progetto che Mann aveva in mente: raccontare, cioè, l’amore del settantenne Goethe per la diciassettenne Ulrike von Levetzow. Dunque quello che Mann aveva in mente era la rappresentazione del problema della dignità dell’artista. Nella lotta tra apollineo e dionisiaco che caratterizza la crisi di Aschenbach e, per esteso, la figura dell’intellettuale borghese, emerge il tentativo di Mann di conciliare (come, tra l’altro, anche in “Tonio Kröger”) la forma e la forza elementare della vita, il caos. Cerca di giustificare il suo iniziale interesse per il giovane polacco rintracciando nelle sue fattezze gli indizi della bellezza classica, come la chiarezza e il richiamo al mondo delle idee, ma poi il sogno finale, durante il quale viene svelato un poco equivoco simbolo fallico, lo sprofonda inevitabilmente nel caos di quelle forze vitali ed oscure nascoste nel suo inconscio e che porta dapprima alla tragedia, poi alla morte. Nonostante i continui richiami al “Fedro” e al “Simposio” di Platone, l’inconciliabile resta tale, sia nel racconto in questione, sia nella realtà. Il tentativo di Aschenbach fallisce perché la realtà cambia, l’intellettuale borghese perde realmente la sua dignità, prima quella di intellettuale, poi quella di borghese.Un racconto non facile, pieno di richiami alla cultura classica e di riferimenti ai dati reali che hanno portato al suo concepimento. Tuttavia rimane una lettura imprescindibile se si vuole comprendere il passaggio da un mondo antico a quello nuovo, se si vogliono comprendere i conflitti che hanno portato alla nascita di un nuovo tipo di cultura e di artista. Inoltre si resta incantati da alcuni passaggi, dove la penna di Mann esprime il meglio di sé. Ne riporto uno che ho particolarmente gradito e che descrive l’alba.”Ma, ai primi chiarori dell’alba, lo destava un soprassalto di acuto e dolce sgomento, il cuore si ricordava della sua avventura , egli non resisteva più fra i cuscini, si alzava, e, coperto di leggero contro i brividi del mattino, sedeva alla finestra in attesa del sorgere del sole. Il mirabile evento riempiva di devozione religiosa la sua anima purificata dal sonno. Cielo, terra e mare giacevano ancora in un pallore vitreo, spettrale, di crepuscolo; negli spazi incorporei nuotava ancora una stella morente. Ma ecco giungere un soffio, l’alato messaggio lanciato da inaccessibili regioni, che Eos si leva dal fianco dello sposo; avveniva quel primo e tenero arrossire delle zone più remote del cielo e del mare, in cui il rendersi percepibile ai sensi dell’universo creato si rivela. Si avvicinava la dea, la rapitrice di adolescenti, che già involò Clito e Cefalo e, sfidando l’invidia degli Olimpici, godé l’amore del vezzoso Orione. Ai confini del mondo, aveva allora inizio uno spargere rose, un brillare e rifiorire di un’indicibile grazia; come ubbidienti amorini, leggere nubi pargolette intrise di luce si libravano nei rosei e celesti vapori; un manto di porpora calava sul mare che pareva ondeggiando risospingerlo a riva; dal basso, auree lance si avventavano in alto nel cielo; lo splendore trasmutava in incendio; tacitamente, con imperiosità divina, la vampa infocata, il lingueggiar delle fiamme, inondavano di sé il firmamento: con impetuosi zoccoli, i sacri destrieri del fratello balzavano alti sull’orbe. Inondato dal fulgore del nume, solitario vegliante sedeva e, chiusi gli occhi, offriva le palpebre al bacio del cerchio di luce.”


I bet someone could write a masterpiece by taking this book’s premise and elongating it into a fuller exploration of the child-adult love taboo. Oh, really? Oh.This book really does read like a Lolita written 40 years prior with Lo’s gender switched and a premature ending just before things get really interesting (if you know what I mean). Death in Venice is equally engrossing and sports a protagonist, Aschenbach, who’s as well developed, far more relatable, and nearly as interesting as our dear Humbert Humbert. The novel does feel cut-off though, as if Mann were afraid to explore the tale any further, and it also includes a not-so-faint whiff of moralizing that’s rather absent in Nabokov’s version. Aschenbach’s portrayal as a driven, successful, and now weary late middle-aged writer is so convincing that I was surprised to learn that Mann wrote this in his mid-30s. The characterization’s so good, in fact, that I was sure it had to be mostly autobiographical. Maybe, maybe not. Either way, it’s damn good writing that’s on display for too few pages. I’ll be returning to Mann, and hopefully soon.


Just finished reading this for the second time. The few extra years and small amount of insight I've gained since the time of my first reading in 2009 just made this book seem a deeper well, rather than a shallower, more manageable one. It's definitely brilliant, and the movie version--however interesting--fails to capture all of its richness. Reading this with the Apollonian and Dionysian dichotomy in mind (something I didn't much consider the first time) definitely enhanced my understanding of Aschenbach as an artist and his obsession with Tadzio. Still, I often felt like a blind man groping in the dark, sensing only the reverberations of genius pulsing beneath my feet. December, 2009 review:This complex, little story definitely requires multiple readings - at least from me. I am in no way prepared to discuss the meaning of this book in any sort of coherent way. But I do sense that it's quite the mini-masterpiece. The imagery is wonderful, particularly descriptions of the setting, of the beautiful Tadzio and of the various grotesque harbingers of death that confront the protagonist throughout the story. The tension the author creates through the juxtaposition of beauty and ugliness, youth and decay, and purity and corruption is so rich. I want people who are smarter than I am to read this book and then tell me about it.

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