Death in Venice

ISBN: 0060576057
ISBN 13: 9780060576059
By: Thomas Mann 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 HeimPublished 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

Traveller

Since the piece is well known as being a landmark work of fiction regarding male homosexuality, I am not going to focus on that in my review, or on its other element that has been flogged to death as well, being the rather extreme youth (age 14) of the love object. -----Well! What a conflicting piece of fiction. The novella seems fairly divisive amongst critics, but one thing that I think most of us can agree on, is that the novella is a discomfiting piece of writing. I suspect this was so for the author as well as for his readers.For me this was not because of how the protagonist's obsession affected his love-object, but because of how this obsession affected the protagonist himself. ... and, I couldn't shake the feeling that the novella was pretty much autobiographical in many senses. (I found out later that it was so in many respects, and the love-object is based on a real person. Most uncomfortable of all, is that the 'real' Tadzio, was the 10-year old Wladyslaw Moes).Achenbach, the protagonist, is a well-respected author, who, like Mann, tends to engage with political and intellectual issues in his work. Like Achenbach, Mann visited Venice, where he made the acquaintance of a young boy whose beauty he apparently admired; with the difference that Mann was accompanied by his wife and brother, while Achenbach was alone. Okay, there are a few other differences as well - and one pretty large one, but that's a spoiler.Many reviewers and critics have made much ado about the protagonist's homosexuality and/or his pederastic inclinations, but I think what disturbed me most was the stalker-ish intensity of the protagonist's infatuation, and to an extent also how he totally overromanticized the idea of physical beauty, using purple prose and overblown idealistic sentiments to describe his thoughts on physical human beauty, (which I deeply disagree with), and which Mann propped up with symbolism from Greek mythology, and references to Platonic ideals.Ironically, Björn Johan Andrésen, who played the role of the fourteen-year-old Tadzio in Luchino Visconti's 1971 film adaptation of Death in Venice, is credited with saying: “One of the diseases of the world is that we associate beauty with youth. We are wrong. The eyes and the face are the windows of the soul and these become more beautiful with the age and pain that life brings. True ugliness comes only from having a black heart”.Because I have long known that beauty is only skin-deep, I like those sentiments a lot better than: ... he believed that his eyes gazed upon beauty itself, form as divine thought, the sole and pure perfection that dwells in the mind and whose human likeness and representation, lithe and lovely, was here displayed for veneration. This was intoxication, and the aging artist welcomed it unquestioningly, indeed, avidly. His mind was in a whirl, his cultural convictions in ferment; his memory cast up ancient thoughts passed on to him in his youth though never yet animated by his own fire. Was it not common knowledge that the sun diverts our attention from the intellectual to the sensual? It benumbs and bewitches both reason and memory such that the soul in its elation quite forgets its true nature and clings with rapt delight to the fairest of sundrenched objects, nay, only with the aid of the corporeal can it ascend to more lofty considerations. Cupid truly did as mathematicians do when they show concrete images of pure forms to incompetent pupils: he made the mental visible to us by using the shape and coloration of human youths and turned them into memory's tool by adorning them with all the luster of beauty and kindling pain and hope in us at the sight of them...Some interesting thoughts there, though I disagree with the sentiments expressed in bold. Were these the thoughts of the protagonist, or the author himself? From his notes, it would seem that these were actually Mann's own sentiments. They do seem a perfect rationalization for a man in Achenbach's position to make though, which makes them pretty fitting in their context, I must concede.I am surprised that so many people, with so much evidence to the contrary, can still invoke Plato's ideas of essence = form when it comes to physical beauty = spiritual beauty. Surely, it doesn't require too much contemplation to come to the conclusion that physical beauty does not equal spiritual beauty?One could muse that perhaps what Achenbach is rather saying, in what seems like a rationalization for his passion, that beauty can inspire love, the latter which is in itself beautiful. ...and yet, since in this specific context the object of that passion is so young, and vain, and since they had never even exchanged a word with one another, could this be love? Methinks not - this could surely be but an infatuation of the senses.From the notes Mann made for the writing of the novella, it is clear that part of what he wanted to show, was that an artist (an author like himself) cannot be a dignified, purely rational creature, that he needs to be in touch with his passions and emotions, and that the act of creating art is inherently not a dispassionate activity.Something else that Mann seems to be saying behind the scenes, is that love itself cannot be dignified, that love pushes an individual into undignified behavior. Mann being a fairly obviously repressed individual, one can read a certain parallel between the disease that infects Venice, with Achenbach's almost insane passion (insanity features in Mann's notes). Mann seems to see these homosexual pederastic impulses that one surmises he felt himself, as at the same time degrading and ennobling. Ennobling, so the reasoning seems to go, in the sense of that when a person degrades himself for love, it can be seen as a kind of sacrifice of dignity for a higher cause (being, in this case, "love").But one can only follow such reasoning if you can agree that a passion that seems so distant, unrealistic and physical can be ennobling and can be described as "love". To put the matter in a slightly different context - make a small leap in your mind and imagine that the love-object here is instead a 40-year old woman. If the latter was the case, would the scenario in DIV still be creepy? Indeed, it would. What would make the scenario still creepy? It would still be a purely physical obsession characterized by stalkerish behaviour.So one ends up asking yourself how far selfishly and obsessively stalking someone can really be an expression of love? ..and if it is to the extent that one puts this behaviour of yours above the wellbeing of its object? ..and what when the continuation of this behaviour puts the other's life in danger, then is it not actually selfishness and the opposite of love?(view spoiler)[ Achenbach deliberately does not tell Tadzio's mother about the epidemic in order to avoid the outcome that Tadzio's family would leave the resort; which would remove Tadzio from the older man's proximity. In fact, I was sort of visualizing an ending in which Tadzio dies of Cholera, and Achenbach is racked with guilt, possibly even driven totally mad with guilt) (hide spoiler)]Of course, when the object of your obsession is only 14 years old, not making contact can probably be seen as the nobler action to take than to make contact; and sticking to stalking behaviour is probably preferable to some potential alternatives.In spite of my criticism of Mann's ideas and of his patches of overwrought, overemotional purple prose, the latter suits the subject of the story well, and there are certainly a lot of thought-provoking ideas and well-executed imagery.Mann also displays keen insight into his characters. He portrays the aging, smitten homosexual well, and the dissolution of his personality via the intensity of his obsession is conveyed with pathos despite the relentless dissection under Mann's unnerving microscope. One feels torn between pity for Achenbach while at the same time suppressing a shudder at the creepiness of his stalking behavior - but Mann manages to make him look pathetic more than anything else. Mann also remarks on Tadzio's narcissism with acute insight. According to The Real Tadzio: Thomas Mann's Death in Venice and the Boy Who Inspired It, the latter was indeed a pretty narcissistic person who enjoyed the attentions of older men, so Mann was pretty spot-on with his portrayals.All-in-all, as with all good fiction, the novel leaves one with conflicted feelings. And, like all good fiction, it makes you roll around its various elements in your head, considering and re-considering; trying to find definite stances. The fact that the latter is so hard to do with this work of fiction, is a part of what makes it good fiction, whether one agrees with all of the specific ideas put forward by it or not.--- I must mention that I started the novella with the e-book version of the translation by Michael Henry Heim, and finished with the translation by Clayton Koelb, with some cross-over where I read passages out of both. The latter claims to be the most natural and most US-friendly translation out there, but these two translations appeared fairly similar to me.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

Bram

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.

Carmo Santos

Thomas Mann não é um autor fácil, tem uma escrita elaborada e requintada com reflexões profundas e complexas que se espraiam ao longo de parágrafos extensos e capítulos enormes. As descrições dos ambientes são rigorosas e muito sensoriais. Quase se sentem os cheiros e os ruídos, nos passeios a pé ou de gôndola através da cidade. É uma leitura que exige concentração - algo difícil nestes dias de calor abrasador - e por vezes terminava uma frase, sem já saber como ela tinha começado. Foram tantas as vezes que voltei atrás na leitura, que, bem feitas contas, devo ter lido o livro umas três vezes.Morte em Veneza é uma narrativa sem diálogos, onde só se toma conhecimento dos pensamentos da personagem principal, Aschenbah, um escritor conhecido e admirado, cuja vida se pautou pelo rigor e disciplina. De férias em Veneza, apaixona-se por um adolescente que é a personificação da beleza ideal e pura. Entrega-se de forma obcecada àquela paixão platónica, e começa uma análise retrospectiva de toda a sua vida, e a encarar o futuro sobre uma nova perspetiva. Lança-se então num perseguição feroz ao rapaz, que o vai colocar em situações por vezes ridículas e em última instância, a desafiar a própria morte.Dizem as más línguas que este livro tem muito de autobiográfico, também Thomas Mann de passagem por Veneza, terá ficado deveras impressionado com um jovem de grande beleza que conheceu no mesmo hotel em que se passa esta história.Ainda não sei se bastou este livro para ficar fâ convicta de Mann, mas sei que foi suficiente para me deixar com vontade de ler mais. Em espera estão mais dois - pequeninos - depois...bem, depois verei se tenho coragem, ou não, para escalar A Montanha Mágica.

Fewlas

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.”

Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

I address in this review those of you here at goodreads who are young and beautiful. Please pay attention to what I have to say.When you go to the beach, in you bikini or swimming trunks, what do you do? You preen, you display your half-naked body around, hoping to catch the attention of equally-young and good looking vacationers like you. I bet you never pay attention to the old men or women who may throw you a glance or two. That is a big mistake.Here is a semi-autobiographical novel. The principal protagonist is a guy, a famous writer over 50 years old, with greying hair, with a good name and a reputation to protect, but is a closet homosexual during those days when homosexuality was looked upon as an aberration worse than a contagious disease. He goes to Venice to have some R & R and in one resort there he sees a Polish family: the mother, her three daughters and her young son. The boy is handsome with a curly hair. The writer is captivated by this boy whose beauty he compares to that of a young god.So what happens? Will he be able to lure this boy to one isolated part of the resort and have sex with him? No. Nothing happens. The writer just looks at the boy, follows him around, and thinks about him. The action here, if one may call them as such, happen inside the mind, via interior monologues and streams-of-consciousness of an old gay guy loving a beautiful young boy surreptitiously from afar. He won't even be able to talk to the boy or to any of his family members.At this point, while reading this, you may have your own interior monologue query: "Why, then, should I waste my time reading this novel where nothing happens, and why did this old geezer, who shamelessly uses the image of Tarzan as his avatar, give this 5 stars?" The answer to that is this: Thomas Mann was a great writer and we will never be able to write like him so we should at least read him and appreciate what he had left us. In one scene, for a very brief moment, coming back to the resort from somewhere, the boy met the old writer's gaze and smiled at him. If you're writing this novel all you could manage to write about this event, like what your current favorite writers would have, would be something like this: "The boy's smile gave the old writer a stiff erection." But not Thomas Mann! He gushes with two breathless paragraphs about this smile:"He had not been prepared for the beloved encounter, it came unexpectedly, he had not had time to put on an expression of calm and dignity. Joy no doubt, surprise, admiration, were openly displayed on his face when his eyes met those of the returning absentee--and in that instant it happened that Tadzio (the boy) smiled: smiled at him, speakingly, familiarly, enchantingly and quite unabashed, with his lips parting slowly as the smile was formed. It was the smile of Narcissus as he bows his head over the mirroring water, that profound, fascinated, protracted smile with which he reaches out his arms toward the reflection of his own beauty--a very slightly contorted smile, contorted by the hopelessness of his attempt to kiss the sweet lips of his shadow; a smile that was provocative, curious and imperceptibly troubled, bewitched and bewitching."He who had received this smile carried it quickly away with him like a fateful gift. He was so deeply shaken that he was forced to flee the lighted terrace and the front garden and hurry into the darkness of the park at the rear. Words struggled from his lips, strangely indignant and tender reproaches: 'You mustn't smile like that! One mustn't, do you hear, mustn't smile like that at anyone!' He sank down on one of the seats, deliriously breathing the nocturnal fragrance of the flowers and trees. And leaning back, his arms hanging down, overwhelmed, trembling, shuddering all over, he whispered the standing formula of the heart's desire--impossible here, absurd, depraved, ludicrous and sacred nevertheless, still worthy of honor even here: 'I love you!'"The thing is, this was based on actual events. Thomas Mann, though married and had children, was "emotionally gay." He, indeed, had that vacation in Venice and while in a vacation resort saw a Polish family with a young, beautiful boy who caught his fancy. Many years after this novel had become famous and was being made into a movie, its tremendous publicity caught the attention of that boy himself, then already old and ugly and his playmate, and they must have had the thrill of their lives that they were not only in a famous novel but will be in a movie as well.This, then, I say once more to the young beautiful people here: when you are on the beach, in your teeny weeny polka dot bikini (or bulging swimming trunks, as the case may be), DO NOT IGNORE THE OLD PEOPLE LOOKING AT YOU. Smile at them, at least. For who knows if that lecherous-looking Japanese guy eyeing your nubile body isn't Haruki Murakami himself and is already plotting a novel with your character in it? Or if that old, decrepit invalid being tended to by a nurse is not Gabriel Garcia Marquez? Baby, you could be famous!

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.

Peter

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.

abatage

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.

Harry Kane

This is a novella detailing the decline and death of aged respectable author, who has subjugated his entire adult life to his formidable intellect. The repressed unconscious material emerges in three symbolical orgiastic manifestations: 1) paranoia of ginger men and feeling that they keep popping up everywhere; 2) hysterical disgust at an aged man he sees, who tries to fraternize greasily with strapping young lads; 3) the aged author’s increasingly disturbing fascination with beautiful 14 year old boy he sees in his hotel in Venice.Gustav von Aschenbach never does confront the root of his intellect/orgiastic impulses split, but instead fights the impulses until they overwhelm his tired aged frame, and then submits to them, at the same time as the pre-antibiotic Venice infects him with cholera. Lovingly written with many asides, for which I love Mann so, this is an impeccable presentation of the decline of the psyche and organism of an aged author, and his final grasps at the straw of youth, health, and joy of life – through his fascination with 14 year old Tadzio.Warning: you have reached the Butthurt portion of reviewThere are certain people... they think Death in Venice would be a much ‘better’ book if a) Tadzio was 18, and the story ended with him and von Aschenbach singing ‘We Are Family’ or b) if the author tried to make out with Tadzio and was then tried for pedophilia. Same people who think Anna Karenina is a slow moving historical romance; that The Great Gatsby is a slow moving crime thriller/romance. ‘If only these old authors knew how to really write’, they imply. 'If only they were as enlightened as we are, and knew how to write cliffhangers, preferably inside a Hero’s Journey superstructure. Or at least were not afraid to deal with issues correctly and openly, like we do today, for we are the culmination of humanity’s history and actually get stuff.'People, stop torturing yourself and others with these attempts to deal with the classics, especially non-Anglosaxon such. If you’re only reading them for prestige, the effect is quite counterproductive. Stick to reality shows and fashionable contemporary fiction. Best for all concerned, really. A good author is aware of many of his impulses which people ordinary repress beyond consciousness. Homosexual impulses, incest impulses, murder impulses, rape impulses, defecate where I want to impulses, stealing impulses, retreat into catatonia impulses, etc. Now, before anyone has a rage-induced anal prolapse, I’d like just to clarify that I’m not implying that homosexual impulses are equal to murder impulses, I’m just enumerating. If you’d like your personal fetish/lifestyle to not be included, please send application form A 6.Mann was very aware of his homosexual impulses and pedophilic such. Today’s full of it critics call it his ‘struggle with homosexuality’, implying that poor repressed coward didn’t have the guts to come out of the closet, leading the European elite into a new era, and maybe even preventing WWI and II. But I digress. We are all made up of impulses. It’s one thing to recognize them and juggle their interaction, allowing one 20% freedom, another 70%, and a third one – no freedom, only sublimation in one form or another. It’s quite another thing to automatically take one’s own character structure as ‘how everyone should be’ and look with pity and some gloating at the unfortunate imbeciles who do not have your laser intellect and iron courage to be exactly like you.I don’t know why I think Mann should be defended, and that I should be the one to bother. I’m certainly not taking this up as a day job, or even a hobby. But today I just felt that someone had to say all this. And I did. Cheers.

Cheryl

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

Ryan

** 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.

Jamie

Something like a gay Lolita, though I guess of course this predates Nabokov's work. I hear Mann's novel (novella?) alluded to frequently as a gay classic, and this is naturally a subtext to be read in a story detailing an older man's obsession with a fourteen-year-old Polish boy, but I think more significantly, a very Greek philosophy of beauty fuels the passion at the center of the book. In another sense, the book feels strangely Victorian in the way it understands the world; it doesn't seem to come out of a post-World War mindset, for me. Particularly Mann's descriptive passages, of which there are many, since Aschenbach is profoundly isolated and hardly ever talks with anyone. Venice first reflects his mounting anxieties and insecurities; by the end of the novel, however, there's something like a moralistic parallel between the man and the city - as though his decay is mirrored by the plague ravaging the city's inhabitants. A very short read, though dense. Beautiful prose, engaging storyline. Don't expect to come away having a "favorite" character - the figures of the novel feel more like conduits for ideas, and Aschenbach is hardly someone you'd enjoy having a beer with.

Bethan

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.

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.

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.

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