Death in Venice and Other Stories (Paperback)

ISBN: 0451530322
ISBN 13: 9780451530325
By: Thomas Mann Jefferson S. Chase Martin Swales

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Reader's Thoughts


** spoiler alert ** Ahhh short stories.. novellas.. not my favourite type of read - I hate the emotional cut-off between each story! However, this was a book that I've had on my shelf for many years now and have kept meaning to read. I bought the book because I wanted to read Death In Venice - probably Mann's most famous novella. However, since this edition had the other novellas included I also read those. Below are my thoughts on each story..Little Herr Friedman - A story of deformity, love, and suicide. Some parts are inferred rather than explicitly told, but still enjoyable.The Joker - a story about wanting to live free from the constraints of society - to shun societal companionship - and yet realize that it denies you love and contentment.The Road to the Churchyard - the shortest story in this collection, and yet still rather poignant. It is about a man who has lost his wife and 3 children - one was born dead, one died of illness, and the other malnutrition. Subsequently, he drinks. On his way to the Churchyard, he becomes angered with a boy who is riding his bicycle on the wrong part of the road. He becomes angered, and chases the boy down.The boy gets away, and a crowd gathers around the man as he rages once more, and then collapses, seemingly dying. I think it's not insignificant that the boy on the bike was called Life. The man chases after Life, and yet life runs away from him. Very simple symbolism, yet very effective.Gladius Dei - a short story about a cloaked man called Jerome who becomes enraged about a lustful painting of the Madonna on display in a popular art shop in the heart of Munich. A devout religious man, he confronts the shop owner with religious zeal, and demands the picture be burned, as it is a sinful, lustful painting in the cult of beauty. He gets thrown out, and sees before him all the sinful works of art that belong in the cult of beauty, and a righteous sword of God hanging above him in the sky. He shouts, "The sword of God over the Earth, swiftly and speedily."Tristan - Progressing though the book, it is clear that Mann's style is advancing. I enjoyed this tale of patients in a sanatorium, and their friendship that hints at romantic intrigue, and certainly jealousy from Herr Spinell. Fundamental to this story is that Spinell only wishes to see the beauty in everything, to the point that in his written confrontation to Herr Kloterjahn he invents a beauty vision of GabrielleTonio Kroger - one of the longer stories, it conveys, yet again the feelings of an outsider, literary genius, and stuck between the two cultures of his parents. Tonio is forever the outside - the richest kid in class, no social qualities, unconventional looking, always in a one-sided love, troubled by matters that appear largely due to his intellectual capabilities and over-thinking, outsider at the holiday ball.. forever ignored and feeling like he doesn't fit in. An extension of the author's own internal struggles?Death In Venice - yet again centered around an intellectual, and famous writer, who is stuck in this ugly routine and order, and so decides to holiday in Venice. One thing I noticed was that everything was ugly and vulgar in this story, apart from Tadzio - a Greek-like image of beauty, of poise and upper class behaviour, of youth and innocence. Aschenbach has an awful journey to Venice (the weather, the criminal gondolier), he is described as being old with a leather face, the heat is disagreeable to him and makes him ill, the sickness of cholera spreading (with the details of the symptoms expressed for effect).. so much vulgarity, and yet he becomes entranced with Tadzio, who shines bright against the vulgarity and infatuates Aschenbach. Aschenbach holds the boy on another level - he is god-like and nothing he does is unfavourable. It comes to the point where Aschenbach stalks the child and feels he should die if he fails to see him - in fact he stays on in Venice despite knowing of the sickness because he cannot bare to part with the child, and in so suffers illness, and as Tadzio and his family leave, Aschenbach dies from sickness.. but also seemingly from the inability to part with the child he has become so entranced by.I'm glad that I chose to read all of this collection because it certainly shows Mann's growth as a writer, but also chronicles how he revisits concepts and improves on them each time, or approaches the subject in an entirely different way. Nearly all stories included an intellectual, often a writer, and his struggles with the feeling of being an outsider, and yet each story was fresh and new and took on a different approach - many times showing the growth in Mann's maturity as a person and a writer.The introduction is well worth a read, though I would recommend reading it after you have read the novellas. It gives a great background to Germany and the literary scene at the time of these novellas, as well as Mann's life and how this influenced his work, particularly referencing his inspiration from Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Wagner, and his interest in nihilism and naturalism. I will say, however, that if you haven't read Buddenbrooks then elements are revealed in the introduction which may spoil it for you..I would definitely recommend this! Very interesting and thought-provoking. I found the Germanic literary style difficult at times - the vocabulary! Amazing! But, nevertheless, this was brilliant,and it is understandable that Mann's literary talents were recognized with a Nobel Prize.I will definitely be picking up another Thomas Mann book in the future..


Basically I just advise that you not read this book from back to front, like I did. I bought it for Death in Venice, so I read that first, then I read the other stories, and then - because most introductions are really annoying and give away crucial aspects of the plot, and I know it's probably really lowbrow of me to care even a mote about what actually happens in books, rather than purely revelling in the manner of it all, but I just fucking do, okay? - I read the introduction.But Mann basically tackled the same two themes in each of these stories - sensuousness vs a more moral, less base approach in the arts, and whether the act of creating art distances the artist from humanity - and built and evolved as he went, and the introduction provides fairly crucial context for people who aren't well versed in Naturalism and Nietzsche. So I essentially read the lot ass-over-tit and without any background knowledge.The rating is based on my ill-informed impressions. Having now read David Luke's superb introduction, I realise I'm in no position whatsoever to comment, but on the other hand certain authorial approaches Mann took, which Luke explains he took for a reason, still got on my tits: e.g. the repetition, and the prissiness of the narration. Context is everything.Favourite quote (from the introduction by David Luke): aesthetic epicurianism cannot in the end compensate for human isolation.


Clearly a classic for obvious reasons. The craftsmanship, and eloquence is just gripping. What is mystifying about Death in Venice for me, is the context. For some reason, this book is accepted by German culture? The story revolves around an old man's forbidden homosexual attraction to a 12 year old boy. This, especially coming out of 40s Germany, is unreal. And it was hailed as brilliant in its time, as well! Totally forgot to update this post-ANYWAYDeath in Venice, and the excerpts I read from other stories, seem to focus on the struggles of excellence and the struggles of the artist. Mann seems to examine this from a few points of view- protagonists both young and old, and the characters he surrounds them with for contrast.Is love the death of excellence and art? Or are excellence and art the birth and brilliance of real love? Honestly, I may agree with critics in general- It seems as though Death in Venice is the quintessential Mann read, the capstone. The other stories are informative but not as compelling of protagonists (in my opin). Kinda like This Side of Paradise and The Great Gatsby. It's like the writer has found his form in Death in Venice, as well as his thesis.


This collection of Thomas Mann's novellas and short stories thematically exhibits the alienation of being a passionate artist in a bourgeois society. "We artists despise no one more than the dilettante, the man of life who thinks that in his spare time, on top of everything else, he can become an artist," the title character tells a sympathetic friend in "Tonio Kroger," a story which seems at least partially autobiographical. Tonio, who has become a renowned writer as an adult, recalls an instance when he was a boy in which he tried to entice the interest of a friend -- a popular, athletic boy, everything that Tonio was not -- by enthusiastically explaining to him the plot of Schiller's "Don Carlos." The attempt was futile, however, and Tonio was left spiritually alone with his unusual love of literature."Tristan" takes the artist-bourgeois conflict to a setting that presages Mann's definitive novel "The Magic Mountain." The protagonist, an offbeat writer named Spinell confined to a tuberculosis sanatarium, takes an interest in a fellow patient, a businessman's wife who, he discovers, is a sensitive and tasteful amateur pianist. He writes her husband a derogatory letter, deploring him as a philistine who does not deserve to share his life with this secretly artistic woman, which results in a heated confrontation between the two men. In "The Child Prodigy," Mann's tone turns satirical as he focuses on an eight-year-old concert pianist giving an electrifying public performance to an audience whose various reactions -- wonder, jealousy, indifference -- are reflections upon themselves more so than on the performer. "Death in Venice" is the boldest piece in this collection, unambiguously presenting homosexuality in an artistically positive light but also showing something of a German fascination with Italian culture and scenery. Gustav Aschenbach, the protagonist, again seems to reflect Mann to an extent as a middle-aged, widowed, respected author from Munich who becomes infatuated with a teenage boy while vacationing in Venice. Whether this love ever becomes mutual or physical is not as important as the mood Mann invokes about European cultural and moral decadence, possibly symbolized by the cholera epidemic that sweeps through the city. "Man and Dog: An Idyll" is a brilliant meditation on the narrator's affectionate and occasionally difficult relationship with his pet pointer and also allows a glimpse of life in the industrialized and suburbanized Germany of the early twentieth century. To say that Mann gives the dog a human personality may seem a cliche, but few writers could achieve his level of empathy in relating a dog's behavior and desires in man's terms without resorting to outright personification. A disturbing inversion of this story is told in "Tobias Mindernickel," in which a lonely old man, given no personal background by Mann, ostracized in his neighborhood by adults and taunted by children, buys a dog and demands from it the obedience and respect he has never earned from people.Mann is truly one of the most important figures in twentieth century literature. What he chose to portray, and the talent with which he portrayed it, brighten the legacy of a century that threatened to destroy art in so many ways for so many insane reasons.


I bought a collection of Mann's stories in order to read Death in Venice. I wasn't so thrilled with that one in the end but I was fascinated by Little Herr Friedemann. As a man who always believed that feeling tranquil is more important that happiness and joy, I felt pretty connected to Johaness. A beautiful read and a perfect insight into the mind of someone who dismisses all earthly joys in favour of peace of mind but ends up dying after being hurt by love. A tragical story which ends with the realisation that a life that is not filled with strong emotions,bad decisions,pain,suffering,love and happiness is a "lie". I definitely have to rethink my priorities..


i stalk mr. mann's corpse. one of the first serious writing exercises i gave myself was to write death in venice from gustav's p.o.v. and that story is only the beginning - i have a big soft spot for all of his work.


How this story is told is masterful, but what is told I don't appreciate.

Erik Hanberg

I didn't have a clue about what to expect when reading this novella except that someone would die in Venice. Partway through, I started to wonder if the death would be allegorical. It wasn't. Someone dies.I did like this story, but then again, I'm an English major, and I like picking up some of the harder-to-read classics now and then. Written in 1911, so it's a slower read, with lots of Greek allusions that went over my head. But the core of it was compelling.Not as much Venice in it as I would have liked.


I've only read 'Death in Venice' so my review is only on that novella even though the book I bought has the other stories in it I have not and at this moment in time, intend not to read them.Gustav von Aschenbach, a famous author in his early fifties has a carefully structured way of life that is suddenly and unexpectedly threatened by sexual passion for a young boy while on holiday in Venice. The first three chapters were quite hard to get into after that though the story flowed quite well. However, I really didn't enjoy or even like Death in Venice, I felt confused and had the sense of 'is this it?' about the whole story. From reading Death in Venice it has currently put me off reading anymore of Mann's work. It was rather strange to find out that Mann had written about the young Polish boy, that Aschenbach becomes obsessed with, was actually a real person that Mann and his wife had come across while on holiday themselves. A few other aspects from the storyline where also taken from Mann and his wife's holiday.I'll be honest I'm keeping this review short because a] I didn't like it, b] it's classed as a classic and I'd feel wrong to bash it and c] mainly because I just really felt confused and let down, with the whole is that all there is to it feeling at the end of it. I guess Death in Venice works for some people and not for others.


I've formed a book club in my neighborhood, and this is the selection for our next meeting, along with Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. In this, my second time reading it, I was impressed by the readability of Mann's style. I was somewhat reminded of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, also about middle-age passion for adolescence, but without Nabokov's finely calculated irony that sets the author at just the right esthetic distance to avoid unpleasant complicity with the subject matter. I had the uncomfortable feeling in reading Death in Venice that, despite the disdain for the protagonist in the narrative, there existed an underlying empathy and identification with Aschenbach.Also in contrast with Lolita, Aschenbach has far less control over his situation, which is perhaps more realistic than Humbert Humbert's seeming ease in navigating the course of his seduction. Aschenbach is a fly in the web of a destiny of which he's only dimly aware. Most uncomfortable reading.


I know, it’s a crying shame I haven’t read this classic years ago. And now, having read it, I can say, “What a fascinating, disturbing little melodrama, ” set this brief but dense book aside, and then never pick it up again.Death in Venice by Thomas Mann was published in 1912. It’s about Gustav von Aschenbach, a successful septuagenarian German author who leaves his very staid, regimental life for a whim-filled holiday in Venice. While there, Aschenbach slowly shrugs off his straightjacket existence and starts to feel fiery passion. This is brought on by another vacationer to the island – a 14-year-old Polish boy named Tadzio.Death in Venice is about what 70-year-old Aschenbach’s passion means. Is it an artist’s appreciation of physical beauty? Is it the sickly old author longing after his own youth, acknowledging that that Tadzio takes youth for granted, not even realizing that his beauty is fleeting. Is Aschenbach a pedophile? Is his unnatural lust brought on by Aschenbach’s previously restrictive existence?Mann does a beautiful job of balancing all these complicated questions in a story that is both prosaic and tense. The book veers from being a confessional of sickness to an uncomfortable apologist creed for pedophilia as an education for the youth and an appreciation of physical beauty by older men. I happen to be a strong believer in social structure and propriety on this given subject, so I found myself a little squeamish, even the though the book itself is otherwise chaste. I was frustrated by Mann’s ability to both vilify the emotion and then create a shaky logic for why it exists. In that sense, the book is very successful.In another sense, this book is pure 1912 melodrama. A horrible plague has befallen Venice, a mysterious malady that becomes a major plot point. Aschenbach plummets from his formerly logical and lofty moral values into an obsessed and passion-controlled wisp of a thing. Achenbach is erudite enough that he goes into long narratives about the history of man-boy love and its acceptance in other cultures. You can feel the German trying to justify his own increasingly senseless emotions as he grows both physically and mentally sicker. Finally, it’s blindingly clear that the mystery disease and Achenbach’s lust are parallel metaphors, in which Mann gives his final judgment on the overarching subject of the book – the appreciating of youthful beauty versus pedophilic lust.I get it. I read it. I can move on.

Jenny Blounts

While on the quintessential backpacking-through-Europe trip in my early 20s, my traveling partner and I, of course, went to Venice. We arrived and were immediately charmed by the uniqueness of this mythic city, checked into a super cheap room and ventured out to explore. After a warm afternoon/evening of flirting with gondoliers, getting lost down tiny alleyways, admiring glass jewelry, and drinking inexpensive wine, we returned to our room. It was dark. We turned on the glaring overhead lights and were faced with something out of a horror movie. Dozens upon dozens of plump, well-fed mosquitoes had been squashed against the eerily blank white walls and the quivering shadows of their still-living counterparts could be seen hovering in the corners. Further investigation of the room turned up several swatters and some toxic-looking bug spray. The next day we checked into a place that cost slightly more, but that was air conditioned and had no need for opening the windows. We spent a lovely few days in Venice, exploring its many charms, but the insect-infested nightmares and itchy welts lingered like the reek of the canals...reminding us of the city's more gruesome underbelly.I was reminded of this experience while reading "Death in Venice." Aschenbach is both charmed by Venice, and troubled by it. Much like Aschenbach, I would go back to the city in a heartbeat. The first thing that drew me into this little masterpiece was his vibrant and well-balanced description of the setting through Aschenbach's eyes (perhaps partially because I have been there and could relate...and even all of these years later, Venice remains quite a bit the same.)Obviously, as I look toward teaching this book to my European Lit class in the fall, I'm wondering how to head off the "Eeew. He's a creepy pedophile!" comments before they even start. Admittedly, as I witnessed the development of Aschenbach's love for the young Polish boy, Tadzio, over the course of the book, I had my own moments of "ew," but I felt that Mann's candid and unguarded exploration of Aschenbach's psyche helped me to see that this story goes far beyond that of an older man obsessively stalking a beautiful young boy. As Aschenbach nears his final moments of his writing career (and his life), he is grasping for that perfect beauty that every artist hopes to achieve, represented in the symbol of Tadzio.


Though I found Mann's style to be a bit boring, I did find comfort in the similarities between his characters and my own ego. The motif of the outsider, the person who cannot fit in society's predetermined roles and must struggle to come to the facts that he will forever be on the outskirts, observing society rather than taking part in it, is one I am quite familiar with. But while I still keep optimism in the ideas I form for stories I will never write, Mann's work overwhelmed me with sadness. I found this tone to be accentuated more in the way the stories trailed off without a finality, as if to suggest that this struggle he's been carrying within him for so much time will never let him go, that he had long lost hope to ever find peace of heart. THow would I have loved to find out how the young Tadzio would react when his elder admirer finally approached him. But it was not written in the stars for the two to be acquainted and I suppose it was a parallel of sorts of the times that Mann lived in, when one was bound to keep their inner turmoils inside and though two kindred souls might recognize each other by their gaze, their association would be improbable.


Document of perilous aesthetic temperament.

Joseph Raffetto

Death in Venice is a story of repression and beauty and youth and obsession more than decadence or eroticism.Gustave von Ashenback is a repressed, aging German writer, battling the demon of living a cerebral and repressed life. Becoming run down, he decides to travel to Venice for some Italian charm, romance and beauty. It is there that he first sees a fourteen-year-old polish boy of rare beauty named Tadzio. Tadzio is an age where beauty and youth radiate perfect skin, hair and androgynous beauty. The sight of Tadzio begins to stir the lifetime of repression in Gustave.Gustave soon spends his days watching Tadzio on the beach and following him around Venice. Even though there is a cholera plague in Venice, Gustave goes out openly obsessed the boy. The boy understands the man's attention and seems pleased with the old man's adoration. The boy poses and smiles for Gustave, before his guardians notice the lonely old man's obsession and work to protect Tadzio from the old man.Although he never speaks or touches the boy, Gustave's obsession had turned erotic. On the beach the boy half-turns to him. Gustave rises but collapses and dies.I believe all beautiful young men and women have experienced a mild obsession or a sense of admiration from their youth from an adult who obviously is attracted to him or her in an innocent or not so innocent way.

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