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Death In Venice (Vintage Crucial Classics)

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First published in 1912, Death in Venice tells how Gustave von Aschenbach, a writer utterly absorbed in his work, arrives in Venice as the result of a 'youthfully ardent thirst for distant scenes', and meets a young boy by whose beauty he becomes obsessed. His pitiful pursuit of the object of his affection and its inevitable and pathetic climax are told here with the First published in 1912, Death in Venice tells how Gustave von Aschenbach, a writer utterly absorbed in his work, arrives in Venice as the result of a 'youthfully ardent thirst for distant scenes', and meets a young boy by whose beauty he becomes obsessed. His pitiful pursuit of the object of his affection and its inevitable and pathetic climax are told here with the particular skill the author has for this shorter form of fiction.


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First published in 1912, Death in Venice tells how Gustave von Aschenbach, a writer utterly absorbed in his work, arrives in Venice as the result of a 'youthfully ardent thirst for distant scenes', and meets a young boy by whose beauty he becomes obsessed. His pitiful pursuit of the object of his affection and its inevitable and pathetic climax are told here with the First published in 1912, Death in Venice tells how Gustave von Aschenbach, a writer utterly absorbed in his work, arrives in Venice as the result of a 'youthfully ardent thirst for distant scenes', and meets a young boy by whose beauty he becomes obsessed. His pitiful pursuit of the object of his affection and its inevitable and pathetic climax are told here with the particular skill the author has for this shorter form of fiction.

30 review for Death In Venice (Vintage Crucial Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    Brilliant prose, expertly crafted, and an audacious, masterful blending of mythology, allusion and symbolism. In many ways, a work of considerable genius. Unfortunately, the story itself felt ho hum and left me cold and rather unenthused. Given this considerable dichotomy, between the me that was significantly impressed by Mann's obvious talent, and the more emotional, "enjoyment-centric" me left wanting more by a narrative that seemed dry and lifeless, Ive resolved to revisit this work in a Brilliant prose, expertly crafted, and an audacious, masterful blending of mythology, allusion and symbolism. In many ways, a work of considerable genius. Unfortunately, the story itself felt ho hum and left me cold and rather unenthused. Given this considerable dichotomy, between the me that was significantly impressed by Mann's obvious talent, and the more emotional, "enjoyment-centric" me left wanting more by a narrative that seemed dry and lifeless, I’ve resolved to revisit this work in a few years (it's only 150 pages) for a follow up. Hopefully, at that point, one of me will hold sway. For now...both of me will straddle the fence of wishy-washy indecision. However, regardless of whether my future interactions with the story add to or subtract from my first impression, there’s no denying that there is much to admire, even be amazed by, in this slim, tightly compacted work loaded with full-bodied ideas. I just wished for a deeper connection to the characters and the tale. PLOT SUMMARY: It’s the early 20th century, and in a decaying Europe that is drifting towards war, an austere, deeply repressed author suffers from a severe bout of writer's block. To clear his mind and get his creative juices flowing again, Gustav von Aschenbach takes a holiday and winds up amidst the beautiful decadence of Venice. This was Venice, the flattering and suspect beauty--this city, half fairy tale and half tourist trap, in whose insalubrious air the arts once rankly and voluptuously blossomed, where composers have been inspired to lulling tones of somniferous eroticism. While there, von Aschensbach becomes infatuated with the striking, classical beauty of a teenage boy named Tadzio. Slowly, the writer begins to lose control of his emotional austerity as his long-bottled passions avalanche over him. Despite never acting on his impulse of having any contact with the youth whatsoever, von Aschenbach's infatuation descends into a destructive obsession that leaves him unhinged and adrift from his rationality. Meanwhile, a deadly cholera epidemic is stealthily spreading through the city, and von Aschenbach, though he can feel the onset of symptoms, is too enthralled to make his escape. Eventually...a death occurs...in Venice. THOUGHTS: Despite being written by a German author about a Prussian author, and set in 20th century Italy, this story has Greek tragedy written all over it. Mann's story is steeped in allusions to mythology, and is strongly influenced by Plato's The Symposium and ]Phaedrus, carrying forward their central arguments regarding the man’s struggle between passion and wisdom. Having not read either of these works, I'm sure there are some references that strolled right past me without me having a clue they were even in the room. Nevertheless, I don't think a familiarity with these texts is essential to enjoying this story, though it could certainly enhance it. In keeping with the Greek sympathies central to Mann’s novella, the relationship between von Aschenbach and Tadzio (the boy) is clearly a reference to the platonic ideal of erotic love described by Plato and Socrates. Additionally, Mann includes a whole host of mythological allusions to highlight our protagonist's psychological and physical demise, beginning with von Aschenbach’s gondola ride into Venice that mirrors the journey of many a Greek hero into Hades. At its heart, this is a cautionary tale regarding the danger of extremes, and the need to maintain a sense of balance in the conduct of one's life. Mann shows us someone who has lived a carefully controlled, passion free life in the pursuit of moral, intellectual art. When we first encounter von Aschenbach, he is an emotional corpse existing in the extreme state of pure reason and utter sensual denial. Mann shows us this not as an ideal, but as one end of the spectrum to be avoided. Now, when confronted with the exotic, sensation-filled atmosphere of Venice, von Aschenbach’s suppressed desires bubble to the surface, and his carefully constructed, intellect-driven world crumbles in the face of the onslaught. <>"His head and his heart were drunk, and his steps followed the dictates of that dark god whose pleasure it is to trample man's reason and dignity underfoot." Swiftly, our protagonist finds himself at the other extreme, a slave to his passions, the object of which is encapsulated in the character of Tadzio. Excessively rigid morality exchanged for unrestrained passion…reason abandoned and moderation impossible, von Aschenbach's world deteriorates under the weight of his unchecked desires. It is his falling from one extreme to another, and his inability to achieve a balance, that leads eventually to his self-destruction. My biggest problem with the above is that understood it without feeling it. I would spot an allusion that Mann was incorporating and think how impressive it was…but it never translated into an emotional connection to the story. Thus, I was kept at a distance from the story, and this left me feeling less enamored with the work as a whole, than its prodigious technical achievements might otherwise merit. Still, as I mention above, there is much to love about this work, and part of my tepid reaction to the story may be my unfamiliarity with some of the source texts that Mann draws upon for inspiration. I intend to visit Plato’s The Symposium and/or Phaedrus, and check back in with this work further down the road. For now, an impressed 3.5 stars. Highly recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Adam Dalva

    Odd novella about unrequited pederasty that, like so many novellas with their single themes and small casts, feels a bit overstretched. But there is reason this is still so widely read today (curious how, unlike LOLITA, the subject of this book isn't as important as the theme when it comes to criticism): the writing. Mann's marvelous turns of phrase carry the day and his ruminations on the nature of creativity stand in wonderful counterpoint to Marcel's more spiritual realization near the end of Odd novella about unrequited pederasty that, like so many novellas with their single themes and small casts, feels a bit overstretched. But there is reason this is still so widely read today (curious how, unlike LOLITA, the subject of this book isn't as important as the theme when it comes to criticism): the writing. Mann's marvelous turns of phrase carry the day and his ruminations on the nature of creativity stand in wonderful counterpoint to Marcel's more spiritual realization near the end of LOST TIME. Consider: "Nothing gladdens a writer more than a thought that can be come pure feeling and a feeling that can become pure thought." and “Solitude favors the original, the daringly and otherworldly beautiful, the poem. But it also favors the wrongful, the extreme, the absurd, and the forbidden." and "Like any lover, he desired to please; suffered at the thought of failure.” These lines spill out as the aged writer Aschenbach begins getting more extreme in his behavior, stalking young Tadzio, the boy he loves, through the diseased streets of Venice. Here, Mann achieves something extraordinary: he unlocks the close correspondence between creativity and obsession, between the propriety of making art and the tremendous improprieties that can be side-effect of leaving yourself open to the making of art. Tight in on Aschenbach as we are, morality barely enters into the novella. Instead, in an autobiographical turn by Mann, we see the that repression and beauty often work in counterpoint. As the book accelerates toward its (extremely foreshadowed) ending, we get an especially good scene, as Aschenbach, who derides men who attempt to be younger than they are at the beginning of the book, dyes his hair and gets slathered in make-up in an attempt to please Tadzio. It's a gorgeous moment of pathos, the clown at midnight (soon after a night sequence with a clown), and it will stick with me. Death In Venice is humorless, but you know that going in with Mann. This translation seemed good to me - I have the earlier one as well and when I compared them it wasn't particularly close. Nowhere near the heights of MAGIC MOUNTAIN, which is one of my favorites, but worth your time.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    A short review because there are 1,500 others! A well-established older German man visits Venice and falls in love with a 14-year-old boy on the beach. Here is a key passage very early in the novella (about 75 pages) that illustrates the authors writing style: He [the 14-year old Polish boy] entered through the glass doors and passed diagonally across the room to his sisters at their table. He walked with extraordinary grace the carriage of the body, the action of the knee, the way he set his A short review because there are 1,500 others! A well-established older German man visits Venice and falls in love with a 14-year-old boy on the beach. Here is a key passage very early in the novella (about 75 pages) that illustrates the author’s writing style: “He [the 14-year old Polish boy] entered through the glass doors and passed diagonally across the room to his sisters at their table. He walked with extraordinary grace – the carriage of the body, the action of the knee, the way he set his foot down in its white shoe – it was all so light, it was at once dainty and proud, it wore an added charm in the childish shyness which made him twice turn his head as he crossed the room, made him give a quick glance and then drop his eyes. He took his seat, with a smile and a murmured word in his soft and blurry tongue; and Aschenbach, sitting so that he could see him in profile, was astonished anew, yes, startled, at the godlike beauty of the human being. The lad had on a light sailor suit of blue and white striped cotton, with a red silk breast-knot and a simple white standing collar round the neck – a not very elegant effect – yet above this collar the head was poised like a flower, an incomparable loveliness. It was the head of Eros, with the yellowish bloom of Parian marble, with fine serious brows, and dusky clustering ringlets standing out in soft plenteousness over temples and ears.” He constantly monitors the boy in the hotel dining room and at the beach and eventually starts stalking the boy as he travels through Venice with his family. But a plague is also stalking Venice. He considers leaving the city because of the 'miasma' but decides to stay because of the boy – a bad decision. Mann uses many classical references: in just a few pages Achelous, Phaedrus, Eros, Cleitos, Cephalus, Orion, Poseidon, Pan and others are mentioned. Truly a classic – from 1911. I first read it many years ago. Mann (1875-1955) was a German writer who won the 1929 Noble Prize. He fled Germany for Switzerland and then the USA, not because he was Jewish, but because he opposed Hitler’s ideology and his sexually-charged writings didn't help. He lived in the US (Princeton and then Los Angles) from 1939 to 1952 and became a US citizen. However he was hounded by the McCarthyites as a ‘communist’ and went back to live his final years in Switzerland. Top photo from c.pxhere.com Middle photo from anamericaninrome.com Photo of the author from the Thomas Mann archives at nebis.ch

  4. 4 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. The language of the book "Tod in Venedig"/"Death in Venice" by Thomas Mann I finally decided to tackle Thomas Manns work. My first contact with him took place when I was preparing myself for the ZMP Certification in German. We were able to read in class some excerpts from his main books : Buddenbrooks, Der Zauberberg, Tonio Kröger, and so on. What I remember most from those texts was the extreme difficulty of understanding some If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review. The language of the book "Tod in Venedig"/"Death in Venice" by Thomas Mann I finally decided to tackle Thomas Mann’s work. My first contact with him took place when I was preparing myself for the ZMP Certification in German. We were able to read in class some excerpts from his main books : “Buddenbrooks”, “Der Zauberberg”, “Tonio Kröger”, and so on. What I remember most from those texts was the extreme difficulty of understanding some passages. Some of his vocabulary belongs to another level, that it’s no longer used today (let alone by German writers of today). Another trait of his writing is his ability to write long and encapsulated sentences without losing meaning. That’s the feature that I remember the most.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kalliope

    THE KRITIOS BOY This is Beauty. Male human Beauty but it transcends the particular. Contemplating Beauty brings Happiness. We seek this Happiness, this complete Harmony with ones Life. Perfect Harmony is Divine. Beauty is the Path. How to find the Path, how to reach the final goal? And in seeking, we Desire. Is Art the Artifice that creates the Divine? Goodness, Virtue, Health, Order, Perfection, Restraint, Discipline. All are required. Talent has to be wedded to Dignity. Only then is it Moral. But also THE KRITIOS BOY This is Beauty. Male human Beauty but it transcends the particular. Contemplating Beauty brings Happiness. We seek this Happiness, this complete Harmony with one’s Life. Perfect Harmony is Divine. Beauty is the Path. How to find the Path, how to reach the final goal? And in seeking, we Desire. Is Art the Artifice that creates the Divine? Goodness, Virtue, Health, Order, Perfection, Restraint, Discipline. All are required. Talent has to be wedded to Dignity. Only then is it Moral. But also Freedom is needed. Freedom from the thinking mind. Freedom in open and infinite spaces. Simplicity and the Sea. But there is Time, and Chronos easily brings decay. Or Destiny strikes. For Salvation the only thing we have to defend us is Art. And as the sun and its light drag us to the Senses they can also intoxicate us. And yet, Art — Writing -- cannot reproduce sensuous Beauty, but they will praise it. How to avoid the lurking Danger? They are too close to Emotions. Mirrors of Love. This is Eros, the Divine. The Senses are the Forbidden Fruit. Overripe strawberries, already dragging us, with them, into irreversible decay. Falling. The Abyss.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    750. ِDer Tod in venedig = Death in Venice, Thomas Mann Death in Venice is a novella written by German author >Thomas Mann, first published in 1912 as Der Tod in Venedig. The work presents a great writer suffering writer's block who visits Venice and is liberated, uplifted, and then increasingly obsessed, by the sight of a stunningly beautiful youth. Though he never speaks to the boy, much less touches him, the writer finds himself drawn deep into ruinous inward passion; meanwhile, Venice, and 750. ِDer Tod in venedig = Death in Venice, Thomas Mann Death in Venice is a novella written by German author >Thomas Mann, first published in 1912 as Der Tod in Venedig. The work presents a great writer suffering writer's block who visits Venice and is liberated, uplifted, and then increasingly obsessed, by the sight of a stunningly beautiful youth. Though he never speaks to the boy, much less touches him, the writer finds himself drawn deep into ruinous inward passion; meanwhile, Venice, and finally, the writer himself, succumb to a cholera plague. The boy in the story (Tadzio) is based on a boy (Władzio or Tadzio, nicknames for the Polish name Władysław or Tadeusz respectively) Mann had seen during a visit to Venice in 1911. The main character is Gustav von Aschenbach, a famous author in his early fifties who has recently been ennobled in honor of his artistic achievement (thus acquiring the aristocratic "von" in his name). He is a man dedicated to his art, disciplined and ascetic to the point of severity, who was widowed at a young age. As the story opens, he is strolling outside a cemetery and sees a coarse-looking red-haired foreigner who stares back at him belligerently. Aschenbach walks away, embarrassed but curiously stimulated. He has a vision of a primordial swamp-wilderness, fertile, exotic and full of lurking danger. Soon afterwards, he resolves to take a holiday. ... مرگ در ونیز - توماس مان (نگاه) ادبیات؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه نوامبر سال 2002میلادی عنوان: مرگ در ونیز؛ توماس مان؛ مترجم: حسن نکوروح؛ تهران، نگاه، 1379، در 159ص؛ شابک 9646736238؛ عنوان: مرگ در ونیز؛ توماس مان؛ مترجم: محمود حدادی؛ تهران، افق، 1393، در 141ص؛ شابک 9789643699468؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان آلمانی - سده 20م شخصیت اصلی نویسنده ای ست که توان نوشتن ندارد، به ونیز میرود و در آنجا عاشق پسر جوانی می‌شود و با آنکه هرگزی این دو باهم گفتگویی نمی‌کنند اما این عشق نویسنده را به حال دیگری از رهایی و اعتلای روحی می‌رساند.با همه‌ گیری وبا در ونیز نویسنده نیز بیمار می‌شود نقل از مقدمه مترجم جناب حسن نکوروح: «مرگ آشنباخ در ونیز، آنگونه که در این اثر به نمایش گذاشته میشود، از عناصر مختلف و متنوعی ترکیب شده، که برای درک صحیح آن باید همه ی عناصر را به درستی شناخت، در اینجا از رئالیسم و ناتورالیسم گرفته تا امپرسیونیسم و سمبولیسم و ...؛ همه - در دهه ی دوم سده بیستم میلادی، و پیش از جنگ جهانی اول (تاریخی که اهمیت ویژه ای برخوردار است) - دست اندر کار پایان دادن به جریانی بوده اند، که آغاز آن به سالهای پایانی سده نوزدهم میلادی بازمیگردد»؛ پایان نقل. ا. شربیانی

  7. 4 out of 5

    Greta

    Cholera and Homoerotic Pedophilia Death in Venice is a story of obsession. Gustave von Aschenbach is a successful but aging writer who travels to Venice for a holiday. When he notices an exceptionally beautiful young boy who is staying with his family in the same hotel, his days begin to revolve around seeing and following him. His obsession becomes such a distraction, that he doesnt pay attention to the rumors circulating around about a disease spreading through the city. Gustav von Aschenbach Cholera and Homoerotic Pedophilia Death in Venice is a story of obsession. Gustave von Aschenbach is a successful but aging writer who travels to Venice for a holiday. When he notices an exceptionally beautiful young boy who is staying with his family in the same hotel, his days begin to revolve around seeing and following him. His obsession becomes such a distraction, that he doesn’t pay attention to the rumors circulating around about a disease spreading through the city. Gustav von Aschenbach Gustav von Aschenbach, a disciplined and repressed old man Gustav Aschenbach is a successful German writer who lives in Munich. Now an old man, he has lived an austere, disciplined life dedicated to his writing. He rarely indulges in any leisure or pleasure, and is a highly repressed individual, denying most desires in order to dedicate himself fully to his work. However a latent desire to travel awakened in him, and he ends up taking a vacation in Venice. There, he undergoes a rapid transformation, as he confronts the repressed side of his personality and his inner desires. He becomes obsessed with the young boy Tadzio, first as a kind of work of art—a perfect example of youthful beauty—and then as an object of his erotic affections. He refuses to return home and is ignoring his work and own health in order to pursue his desire for Tadzio, whose youth and beauty he idolizes at the expense of everything else. Tadzio Tadzio is a fourteen year old boy who is staying in the same hotel as Aschenbach Aschenbach actually knows little about Tadzio, a fourteen year-old Polish boy vacationing with his family in Venice, but idealizes and fantasizes about him endlessly. Aschenbach is taken by Tadzio’s youthful, “godlike” beauty and continually compares the young boy to Greek statues and mythological figures, even though he thinks that Tadzio looks sickly, and guesses that he will die young. He thinks that Tadzio recognizes his interest in him, but it is unclear whether this is only Aschenbach’s fantasy or reality. At the end of the novella, Aschenbach sees Tadzio as a “psychagogue,” a role of the Greek god Hermes, who transported souls to the underworld. Aschenbach spends days on end watching Tadzio play on the beach, even following his family around the streets of Venice. Cholera Aschenbach obsesses about Tadzio and compares his appearance to Greek mythology Cholera infects the city, and although the authorities try to conceal the danger from the tourists, Aschenbach soon learns the facts about the lethal epidemic. However, he cannot bear to leave Tadzio and stays on in Venice. He becomes progressively daring in his pursuit of the boy, gradually becoming more and more debased. Finally he dies of the cholera, degraded, a slave to his passions, stripped of his dignity. Repression, the Mind, and the Self A long-repressed desire to travel, and his erotic desire for Tadzio awakened, which he is absolutely powerless to resist. Freud‘s ideas of unconscious, and the concept of repression play an important role in the novel. According to Freud, repressed desires “return” at later times, causing psychological problems for repressive individuals. This seems to happen for Aschenbach, because he represses his emotions and desire for pleasure for so long, that when they come back to haunt him, he is utterly overwhelmed by them. This wakens a latent, long-repressed desire to travel, and his erotic desire for Tadzio, which he is absolutely powerless to resist. Aschenbach’s trip to Venice can be seen as a psychological journey to his unconscious. Venice is described as dream-like and Aschenbach exists in a delirious, only half-awake state there. Moreover, the sea is often an image for the psyche, with the unknown depths of the unconscious. Half-submerged in the sea, Venice is, symbolically, a city bathed in the unconscious. Beyond its illustration of Freudian ideas about repression, the largest lesson to be learned might be that we do not always know ourselves as well as we would like to think—and perhaps we never can. Youth and Time Aschenbach’s obsession with youth becomes quite perverse and extreme Part of why Aschenbach travels to Venice is that he feels his time is running out. As an artist, Aschenbach adores the beauty of youth, which inevitability fades with age, which is why his obsession with Tadzio becomes quite perverse and extreme. He becomes a pathetic, grotesque character, as he tries to appear younger, disgusted with his aged appearance. Aschenbach also feels that he loses track of time, becomes temporally disoriented and envisions himself in ancient times. He often compares Tadzio to mythological characters or classical sculptures, idealizing the ancient past as a world full of beauty. He longs both for his own youth and for the “younger” historical period of ancient times, projects both ideals onto Tadzio and shows the destructive, often perverse consequences of an excessive idealization of youth. Youth is always fleeting, and time is always flying. Beauty Aschenbach becomes an old man wearing makeup who stalks a young boy Aschenbach wastes away while becoming increasingly obsessed with his desire for Tadzio, whom he sees as the very personification of beauty itself. It is of course through sight that Aschenbach apprehends Tadzio’s beauty, and he spends much of the novel staring surreptitiously at the boy. At first, Aschenbach tries to appreciate Tadzio’s beauty in a detached, aesthetic way, appreciating him like a work of art. However, he is unable to maintain this distance for long, and soon his artistic infatuation with Tadzio’s physical appearance turns into an intense erotic desire for the boy. As Aschenbach is completely overcome by Tadzio’s beauty, the novella asks whether beauty and the desire for it is a good or bad thing. It makes Aschenbach into a ridiculous, pathetic character—an old man wearing makeup who stalks a young boy—and even contributes to his own death. Aschenbach’s obsession with Tadzio’s beauty even leads him to wish for harm to Tadzio: he is happy when he thinks that Tadzio might die young, because this means his beauty will not fade with age. The book raises the question if beauty always lead to one’s downfall, or can we fall in love with beautiful people or things without succumbing to Aschenbach’s fate? Thomas Mann Thomas Mann, Nobel price for literature in 1929 The novel is not autobiographical, but was largely inspired by actual events in Mann‘s life. Mann had been on an island near Venice in 1905 during a cholera outbreak, and he later traveled to the city, because, like his character Gustav von Aschenbach, he was exhausted by a difficult stage in his writing and felt the need for escape. Like Aschenbach, Mann was also homosexual: Although he was married and had six children. A Polish baron named Wladyslaw Moes identified himself as the boy whom Mann fictionalized as Tadzio. Moes' family had gone to Venice for the sake of his health, and basically all of Tadzio‘s characteristics, applied to Moe as well. Moes even remembers seeing an older man staring at him raptly in the hotel elevator. Furthermore the novel reflects many of the most vital ideas discussed in literature during the time of its composition. At the turn of the century, many European writers expressed an awareness of cultural and personal decadence, and social and moral decline was a central theme. Literature of that time also focused on issues of homoeroticism: like Death in Venice, Dorian Gray uses a fictional character to serve as a mask for its own homosexual author. “Like any lover, he desired to please; suffered agonies at the thought of failure.” In a literary sense „Death in Venice“ is a work of art, purpesfully using intellectual superiority and many references to Greek mythology. But it’s also provocative and a test for literal tolerance, because it thematizes homoerotic pedophilia. In my opinion this is a book to read and to deeply think about.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    Gustave Aschenbach or von Aschenbach, as the German writer has now been honored, at home, all is his fame , fortune , prestige...yet he is alone, his wife has died their only child a daughter, married, living far away, the man is feeling his 50 plus years, restless , unsure...unhappy, he must leave Munich and get...a warmer, climate south would do, Italy, and the glorious city of Venice, above the sea, blue lagoons, sandy beaches, in a beautiful hotel, and the bright, shining Sun spraying its Gustave Aschenbach or von Aschenbach, as the German writer has now been honored, at home, all is his fame , fortune , prestige...yet he is alone, his wife has died their only child a daughter, married, living far away, the man is feeling his 50 plus years, restless , unsure...unhappy, he must leave Munich and get...a warmer, climate south would do, Italy, and the glorious city of Venice, above the sea, blue lagoons, sandy beaches, in a beautiful hotel, and the bright, shining Sun spraying its healing rays, heating his cold, old heart, the image can not be denied. Still in the early 20th Century, things aren't perfect, the weather is bad , the winds make him sick, the dirty canals, odious smells, and decaying buildings, are unsettling, not content, he decides to return to the nearby mainland...and find a better place. His desires aren't successful, on the way, losing his precious luggage, he must go back, it will be uncomfortable, but he has no choice...which strangely makes him glad...just before a handsome, Polish boy, of 14, Tadzio, from an aristocratic family, vacationing also there, he sees at the hotel. The beauty of this child, infatuates the tired , discouraged man, the despondency is lifted , a new life surfaces. Every day Gustave, visits the beach, lies down on his flimsy chair, soaks up the Sun and watches the boy cavorting with other children, swimming in the shallow waters, skipping, dancing, playing, the writer likes the view, but is careful not to be observed, he has two pretty sisters, mother and a governess to deal with. And the weeks slowly pass by, the contented tourist is happy just to be alive, no worries, only happiness permeates , sitting on the hot sand, the re- energized author , begins to follow the Polish family, around Venice, not being conspicuous, sneaking , hiding, walking in back alleys, never having the bravery to talk to Tadzio...A quiet rumors is whispered , foreign newspapers say that a plague has arrived in the ocean city, malignant cholera, especially in the German periodicals, people from Germany and Austria , suddenly disappear from the premises, not believing the local authorities , denials...the strong, medicinal scent, in Venice, is troubling, Aschenbach, needs confirmation, receiving it from the stoic British, nevertheless he remains , too enchanted to leave. ...An unusual novella from the great Thomas Mann, he got the idea, talking with his wife, in this very city, in 1911, (the story was published, a year after) while vacationing in The Grand Hotel des Bains, on the Venetian island of Lido, in the fabled, Adriatic Sea..

  9. 5 out of 5

    Seemita

    As long as we breathe, we live. We do not possess the power to embrace death at will. So, we live. And for living, we cling to a purpose. The purpose may be clear or clouded, animate or inanimate, expressed or hidden, stable or fickle but we have it nonetheless. Even the person accused of leading a purposeless life is surviving on the shredded purpose of vagrancy. So it doesnt come as a surprise that even Gustav Aschenbach, notwithstanding the fame and dignity safely held in his bag of accolades, As long as we breathe, we live. We do not possess the power to embrace death at will. So, we live. And for living, we cling to a purpose. The purpose may be clear or clouded, animate or inanimate, expressed or hidden, stable or fickle but we have it nonetheless. Even the person accused of leading a purposeless life is surviving on the shredded purpose of vagrancy. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that even Gustav Aschenbach, notwithstanding the fame and dignity safely held in his bag of accolades, gropes for purpose in his new found state of ripe mind. Nothing is a bigger curse for a writer than to have hit a plateau from where all the previous works appear a distant dream and the present air leaves nothing for the fertile imagination to latch on. In search of this elusive purpose, after declaring many destinations unfit for ideation, he halts at Venice at a quaint hotel and opens the window of his room to the sea, inviting both its calmness and ferocity to wash his rusted mind panes with inspiring waves. And the sea obliges, in the form of the ethereal Tadzio, who happens to be a guest of the same hotel as Gustav. The stunning beauty of this young Polish boy of golden skin, flowing locks, delicately-crafted ribs and carefree demeanour, first catches Gustav unawares and then, slowly like a persisting rain, fogs his mind panes with sensual dew. His senses, in a natural gesture, follow Tadzio’s movements like a sunflower follows the sun’s trail. From the day he sets his eyes on Tadzio, he gets transported to a new world where he increasingly finds just the two of them, talking about art and beauty, exchanging life wisdoms and sinking in the loving companionship of each other. But does this throbbing one-sided passion render a purpose to the debilitating parchment of his life or relegate it further to insurmountable lows? Hold the hand of Mann to find out. And yes, he has a lot to say in this compact work. He softly pits intellectual beauty against corporeal beauty and questions whether attaining the fulsome body of the former, can, in any way, deride the necessity of the latter’s blossoming. He also nudges us to consider the propriety of actions taken under the influence of relationships which, in the safety net of sanguinity, can deluge the delicate fabric of morality. He also presses us to weigh the artistic liberties in the light of societal approvals and take a stand. For the striking questions and delicately coherent wordplay, I was about to give this work a rating of four. But Mann snatched the solitary star from my hand by playing this masterstroke: A dream where Gustav has donned the garb of Socrates and Tadzio, of Phaedo and the former is giving his life lessons to the young warrior of tomorrow. ’Because beauty, Phaedo, is the only thing that is divine and visible at the same time, and so it is the way of the artist to the soul. But do you believe, my dear Phaedo, that the one who reaches the intellectual through the senses can ever achieve wisdom and human dignity? Or do you believe (and I am leaving this to you) that it is a lovely but dangerous road that leads nowhere? Because you have to realize that we artists cannot take the path of beauty without Eros joining us and becoming our leader; we may be heroes in our own way, but we are still like women, because passion is what elevates us, and our desire is love—that is our lust and our disgrace. Do you see that poets can be neither sage nor dignified? We do not like final knowledge, because knowledge, Phaedo, has no dignity or severity: it knows, understands, forgives, without attitude; it is sympathetic to the abyss, it is the abyss.’ An artist is able when he can turn thought to emotion and emotion to thought with equal finesse. But he is legendary when he can turn a non-artist, artist. And I know Gustav, in the end, did both jobs well.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    Solitude produces originality, bold & astonishing beauty, poetry. But solitude also produces perverseness, the disproportionate, the absurd, and the forbidden. Thomas Mann, Death in Venice Portrait of the artist as an old man. I've been intimidated by Mann. He's a mountain. I own a bunch of his works, in various translations, but keep finding reasons to walk another road, skip ahead, fall behind. For me he has sat waiting like a distant leviathan or like death. So, finding myself in a “Solitude produces originality, bold & astonishing beauty, poetry. But solitude also produces perverseness, the disproportionate, the absurd, and the forbidden.” ― Thomas Mann, Death in Venice Portrait of the artist as an old man. I've been intimidated by Mann. He's a mountain. I own a bunch of his works, in various translations, but keep finding reasons to walk another road, skip ahead, fall behind. For me he has sat waiting like a distant leviathan or like death. So, finding myself in a position where I really felt I could delay no longer, I started with his shorter work - Death in Venice. First, the introduction by Michael Cunningham is a fantastic introduction of the difficulties associated with translation. All fiction is a translation. All works differ, since they all are impacted by writer and reader. Both imperfect, both carrying their own history. Even the same work, read by the same reader at different times (think King Lear) will be interpreted anew, feel different to the reader at different stages and ages. So, it is with translations. Different translators are going to experience Mann's Death in Venice in different ways. Gustav von Aschenbach will appear the fool to some or an artist gripped by obscession and passion by others. There is no exactly right answer. This book was probably a 4-star book for me, but I added the star because I really did like the Cunningham intro (so extra-credit, why not?). So, how was this translation? I don't know. I don't read German and have only read ONE translation, but I loved Heim's take. I love the idea of Aschenbach's obscession overtaking him and ultimately (perhaps?) destroying him. We all would be so lucky if our passions destroyed us, perhaps. So, perhaps, I am ready for Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family.

  11. 4 out of 5

    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 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.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Someone recently asked me which was the most melancholy book I had ever read. Of course there are many of them, and it is hard to make a choice, but the first one that instantly came to mind was Thomas Mann's sad story of suppressed emotion and life wasted to keep the appearances. When comparing Mann to Brecht, one sees a line between the belief in a possible cultural achievement and the cynical loss of it, but maybe the line is not only detectable between generations of German authors. Maybe Someone recently asked me which was the most melancholy book I had ever read. Of course there are many of them, and it is hard to make a choice, but the first one that instantly came to mind was Thomas Mann's sad story of suppressed emotion and life wasted to keep the appearances. When comparing Mann to Brecht, one sees a line between the belief in a possible cultural achievement and the cynical loss of it, but maybe the line is not only detectable between generations of German authors. Maybe that line goes straight through the work of the last German novelist of the dying 19th century? Thomas Mann may be building sentences of old-fashioned eloquence, but his characters wither and die of suffocation in a world that can't carry the ideas of the European 19th century anymore without also acknowledging the deep evil and the inherent flaws that grow out of that society: the restrictions on personal, individual happiness that the intolerance of a predominantly Christian society puts on anyone who desires outside a church-approved wedlock, the exclusion of anyone from power and fame who doesn't play the game of the white man's burden with dignity and conviction. Thomas Mann lived and wrote on the thin line between belief in European culture and his lifelong struggle with his own role and position within that culture. He lived long enough to suffer from the complete breakdown of his native country. Death in Venice, telling the story of "forbidden" desire and of the quite literal breaking of hearts to abide by the standards of thought of the collective, could be seen as the dying of the spirit of excellence facing a reality that doesn't fit the idea. And it is dying and dying. Forever dying like the overcrowded, dirty, real Venice choking on its own popularity as a symbol of European grandeur. We are still stifling our dreams to conform with the bullying crowd of petty mediocrity. We are still longing for beauty without being able to let go of ideas that put us in the position of being ashamed of what we are, rather than questioning the shame itself as a tool of Christian control. We are still loving Thomas Mann for the death he describes in all of his works - from Buddenbrooks to Doktor Faustus. Death in Venice is bittersweet, and as good as Mann can get!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kasia

    Mesmerizing. Perfection. How I'm I supposed to go back to normal life after having experienced glimpses of literary heaven? Thomas Mann, where have you been all my life? I'm confused, perplexed. What are those feelings? Heartbreak or hangover? I'm sorry y'all, but I'm unable to utter a coherent sentence here so I'm going back to read Death in Venice again. And later I'm going to build a church and put this book in the center and worship it every day. See ya in seven years. ( is turning your own Mesmerizing. Perfection. How I'm I supposed to go back to normal life after having experienced glimpses of literary heaven? Thomas Mann, where have you been all my life? I'm confused, perplexed. What are those feelings? Heartbreak or hangover? I'm sorry y'all, but I'm unable to utter a coherent sentence here so I'm going back to read Death in Venice again. And later I'm going to build a church and put this book in the center and worship it every day. See ya in seven years. ( is turning your own house into place of worship tax deductible?)

  14. 5 out of 5

    J.L. Sutton

    A lonely, quiet person has observations and experiences that are at once both more indistinct and more penetrating than those of one more gregarious; his thoughts are weightier, stranger, and never without a tinge of sadness. . . . Loneliness fosters that which is original, daringly and bewilderingly beautiful, poetic. But loneliness also fosters that which is perverse, incongruous, absurd, forbidden. Thomas Mann's Death in Venice reminds me of both Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time and “A lonely, quiet person has observations and experiences that are at once both more indistinct and more penetrating than those of one more gregarious; his thoughts are weightier, stranger, and never without a tinge of sadness. . . . Loneliness fosters that which is original, daringly and bewilderingly beautiful, poetic. But loneliness also fosters that which is perverse, incongruous, absurd, forbidden.” Thomas Mann's Death in Venice reminds me of both Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time and Vladmir Nabokov's Lolita, both because of themes and the wonderful use of language. In the story, aging writer Gustav von Aschenbach travels to Venice to recharge his creativity. Instead, in the midst of an epidemic that takes control of the city, he becomes obsessed with a Polish boy named Tadzio. Melancholy permeates the life and journey of Aschenbach. Death in Venice is a gripping story about the limits of creativity, obsession, language and a life nearing its conclusion. 4.25 stars

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    In each heart there are unrequited desires; desires that hibernate for years only to awaken after the last days of summer have passed into the time when "To love that well which thou must leave ere long" is the only option. While on vacation aging writer Gustav von Aschenbach beholds the beauty of Tadzio, a teenage boy vacationing with his family. After this one look he is enthralled - and cursed - to follow that path which will lead to his destruction.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Amalia Gkavea

    Nothing is stranger or more ticklish than a relationship between people who know each other only by sight, who meet and observe each other daily - no hourly - and are nevertheless compelled to keep up the pose of an indifferent stranger, neither greeting nor addressing each other, whether out of etiquette or their own whim. “Nothing is stranger or more ticklish than a relationship between people who know each other only by sight, who meet and observe each other daily - no hourly - and are nevertheless compelled to keep up the pose of an indifferent stranger, neither greeting nor addressing each other, whether out of etiquette or their own whim.”

  17. 4 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    On one spring afternoon Gustav Aschenbach, or Von Aschenbach as he had officially been known since his 50th birthday, sets out from his apartment in Munich. Writing had overstimulated him and he needs clarity. As with many German intellects of the early 20th century, his mind had been feasting on the classicism of his surroundings, when he came across a displeasing red-haired man. A strange emotion stirred within him, an emotion he pondered on before he later identified it as a desire to travel. On one spring afternoon Gustav Aschenbach, or Von Aschenbach as he had officially been known since his 50th birthday, sets out from his apartment in Munich. Writing had overstimulated him and he needs clarity. As with many German intellects of the early 20th century, his mind had been feasting on the classicism of his surroundings, when he came across a displeasing red-haired man. A strange emotion stirred within him, an emotion he pondered on before he later identified it as a desire to travel. He had been too preoccupied with the duties imposed on him by the collective European psyche. He needed change, so heads to Venice. Venice was not enshrined in sun when the ferry docked, a disturbing insult to his aesthetics, and Aschenbach's mood was not improved when a contumacious, red-haired gondolier imposed his services on him. Quite naturally his thoughts turned to death. And death really pays as the main theme here, He disembarked at the Hotel on the Lido and was reassured to hear the sounds of all the major world languages. And Polish. As he was waiting for dinner he spotted three austere, expressionless girls with their extremely beautiful 14-year-old brother. He went to sleep in a transport of delight and entered a dreamland where he was a great deal more active than he ever was awake. Aschenbach would spend the rest of his stay, studying with passionate observations, the boy, Tadzio, in all his god-like physique, he is fascinated by the boy's dashing good looks, watching on in a state of euphoria, while a calm washes over him. He has never felt so in love. But by his forth week's stay, rumours are circulating there is sickness in the city, he doesn't want to leave. He starts to follow Tadzio more openly, he learned there was a cholera epidemic but still he could not bring himself to tell Tadzio's mother, but can't tear away from his burning infatuation. He started to feel ghastly on the beach whilst gazing across the sand at Tadzio, Was he beckoning him?. Crushed by the weight of the symbolism, he wouldn't rise again. This by Novella standards is quite rightly regarded as a classic of German literature, reading the second time around didn't strike me as much as the first, so have knocked a star of my rating, but it's very well written, and I don't understand the criticism, but then no one book is going to please everybody. 4/5

  18. 5 out of 5

    Swaroop Kanti

    "Aschenbach stated outright that nearly everything great owes its existence to "despites" :: despite misery and affliction, poverty, desolation, physical debility, vice, passion, and a thousand other obstacles." :: Death in Venice by Thomas Mann is an amazing piece of literature! Michael Henry Heim has done this translation so well, that I actually felt like drinking and floating in this ocean of beautiful words... It makes you to want to drink more and more of this! Death in Venice is the story of "Aschenbach stated outright that nearly everything great owes its existence to "despites" :: despite misery and affliction, poverty, desolation, physical debility, vice, passion, and a thousand other obstacles." :: Death in Venice by Thomas Mann is an amazing piece of literature! Michael Henry Heim has done this translation so well, that I actually felt like drinking and floating in this ocean of beautiful words... It makes you to want to drink more and more of this! Death in Venice is the story of Gustav von Aschenbach, a successful writer and about his stay in the city of Venice. Gustav sets out from his apartment in Munich, with a desire to travel. But for me, the book was about the beautiful words and lines... I did not focus much on the story. It was about flowing through the words and emotions.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Fergus

    I muddled through this book early on in life - back in 1976, when I was trying to backpedal furiously to stave off another collision with the barrelling 18-Wheeler of the establishment mindset. So go figure who won... Alas, youre right. My dear Mom always used to say you cant fight City Hall - but I, in my twenties, was like the bloodied Chinook Salmon leaping upwards over the jagged rocks of a mountain brook to its spawning ground. I knew whereof I believed. And There Was No Way I would now I muddled through this book early on in life - back in 1976, when I was trying to backpedal furiously to stave off another collision with the barrelling 18-Wheeler of the establishment mindset. So go figure who won... Alas, you’re right. My dear Mom always used to say you can’t fight City Hall - but I, in my twenties, was like the bloodied Chinook Salmon leaping upwards over the jagged rocks of a mountain brook to its spawning ground. I knew whereof I believed. And There Was No Way I would now recant! For you MUST fight City Hall if City Hall is wrong. I know, I know, why bother? Cool it, right? Sorry. Can’t. And neither could Mann. For his goal, like so many of his Old Guard entre-deux-guerres writers, was to keep SUBLIMATING his inner turmoil until it left him in PEACE. Ha ha, you say, and good luck with that. In answer I grin, a thoughtful aged man now - well, I rejoinder, IT WORKS. If you can’t otherwise reach your Promised Land, the placid spawning pool which is your own Heart’s Delight - for that grim Medusa’s head that now Blocks your Way must WITHER - you just DO IT. We have our Marching Orders. And they are all we need.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    It felt rather odd reading this novella whilst the furore about Jimmy Saville has been going on. This famous/infamous novella is about a writer in his 50s who falls in love with a 14 year old boy who is staying in his hotel whilst he is on holiday in Venice. The story is highly descriptive and internal (Gustav von Aschenbach, the writer, is not a talkative chap, he doesn't even speak to his beloved, Tadzio). Mann himself wrote that he wanted to portray the passion as confusion and degradation and It felt rather odd reading this novella whilst the furore about Jimmy Saville has been going on. This famous/infamous novella is about a writer in his 50s who falls in love with a 14 year old boy who is staying in his hotel whilst he is on holiday in Venice. The story is highly descriptive and internal (Gustav von Aschenbach, the writer, is not a talkative chap, he doesn't even speak to his beloved, Tadzio). Mann himself wrote that he wanted to portray the passion as confusion and degradation and he does this very effectively using the symbolism of Greek philosophy; especially Apollo and Dioysius in opposition; Apollo representing the intellect and repressed emotion and Dionysius representing passion and the opposite of reason. Aschenbach has lived in the realm of intellect and reason; unreason intrudes (the red haired man at the beginning of the book) and Aschenbach travels to Venice to holiday. He appears surprised by the intrusion of passion and struggles to understand and cope with it. As Aschenbach becomes more obsessed his decline is described. Early in the book he sees an older man with a group of younger men; the older man is heavily made up to look younger and revolts Aschenbach. He later becomes what he is revolted by. The symbol of cholera ravaging the heart of Venice, secretly, is mirrored in the destructive passion and in the obsession leading to Aschenbach staying in Venice and dying of cholera (it does feel like Mann really does not like Aschenbach). The influences of Freud and Nietzsche are clear and there are lots of Platonic references. This is a powerful portrayal of doomed and distorted obsession. Mann got the idea when he was in Venice with his family and saw a young Polish boy with his family. He was also a fan of Mahler, who died very suddenly just before Mann conceived the tale. The analysis of passion is stark; Aschenbach gains nothing from it, he becomes ridiculous, diseased and increasingly self-deceiving. Aschenbach does not realise there is a sexual element to his desire until a vivid dream towards the end of the book; that realisation does not lead to direct action on his desires (he still sits on the beach and watches or follows the family at a distance around Venice), but more directly to the onset of the disease and decay. Contrast with the horrific current revelations about Jimmy Saville; he acted out all of his fantasies with no repression. I cannot imagine Aschenbach having an epitaph on his grave saying "It was good while it lasted" like Saville did (Unfortunately we now know what he meant). This novella is well worth reading for Mann's analysis of destructive passion and it is very thought provoking.

  21. 5 out of 5

    ·Karen·

    Lovis Corinth: Self Portrait as Howling Bacchant, 1905, Insel Hombroich There is a haunted dread in the eyes of this bacchant. That howl - more distress than joy. Mania, frenzy, delirium; a Dionysian letting go. This is the mental picture that furnished my mind as I read of Gustav von Aschenbach. Aschenbach is the eminent artist of disciplined control, he has based his whole career on fame, he has achieved recognition through hard graft, a hundred little inspirations that have accrued, that Lovis Corinth: Self Portrait as Howling Bacchant, 1905, Insel Hombroich There is a haunted dread in the eyes of this bacchant. That howl - more distress than joy. Mania, frenzy, delirium; a Dionysian letting go. This is the mental picture that furnished my mind as I read of Gustav von Aschenbach. Aschenbach is the eminent artist of disciplined control, he has based his whole career on fame, he has achieved recognition through hard graft, a hundred little inspirations that have accrued, that have been beaten out and formed into a burnished oeuvre of classicist grace and clarity. But the machine begins to whir out of control, that motus animi continuus, the very heart of eloquence, continues to spin its wheels, refuses to be regulated by the measured rhythm of Aschenbach's daily routine afternoon snooze, spins, spins, whirs on, he must out to quiet the beast. Very swiftly the stage seems to darken into a dream-like state. The tram stop deserted, the streets bare, a stranger suddenly, inexplicably, at the portico of the mortuary chapel - and Aschenbach experiences an opening of his soul, a sudden unrest. Wanderlust, he calls it. Really? This nightmare vision of a primordial wilderness of the dank and decaying, this jungle of greenery with the glowering eyes of a tiger? A vision so stark that he has to shake his head to rid himself of it? But Aschenbach has always been aware of the need for travel as a hygienic necessity, the needed (earned?) escape from work, that "rigorous, frigid, and ardent duty." Aschenbach lives his life with a tightly clenched fist - but on his journey to Trieste, then Pula, then Venice, he gradually begins to relax that grip, the fist opens, the arm hangs loose. He is carried on the water, he is rowed by a menacing gondolier who takes him further than he wants to go, warning him that he will pay, he will pay. And pay he will. But he is delivered safely to the very edge of the civilised world, and there, at the next table in his hotel, waiting for dinner, is a family of young Poles, amongst them a boy of around fourteen. "With astonishment Aschenbach noticed that the boy was perfectly beautiful." Vollkommen schön. Beauty. Kant calls it "interesseloses Wohlgefallen" - disinterested pleasure, an echo of Plato's ideas. According to Plato there is a realm of ultimate ideals, where goodness, wisdom, truth exist in changeless perfection. A vision of these ideals is planted into our souls, but man is a forgetful creature, and loses the sharp focus of that vision. Reason, Justice, Virtue cannot be perceived by our senses, but there is one perfect ideal which is visible, and that is Beauty. An earthly image of Beauty reminds us with a frisson of shock of that Absolute. Thus physical beauty here on earth points to a higher reality, a purely spiritual abstract concept. Ah but. There has to be a but. Beauty is a sensuous pleasure, and can provoke a purely sensual response. To have, to hold, to possess, to enjoy. That is not the entrance to a higher sphere. Disinterested pleasure, remember. Aschenbach has to be given the opportunity to enjoy this perfection as a high ideal: surely that is why Tadzio is a prepubescent male, the incarnation of the unspoilt perfect body, no unsightly sproutings or eruptions, smooth, slender, harmonious. It ought to be, has to be possible to leave carnal desire out of the account, to admire this creature as divine ideal. And indeed Aschenbach starts quite well, with transcendental thoughts over dinner about the relationship between the general and the particular in human beauty "from there to think about the general problems of form and art and eventually found his thoughts and findings to resemble certain apparently fortuitous ideas in a dream, that on closer inspection reveal themselves to be completely stale and unworkable." And the next morning there is a putrid smell in the lagoon. Ah but Aschenbach battles. He tries to see the Greek statue, the perfection, himself as a fatherly figure: "And a fatherly awe, the complete devotion of the one who tries to create beauty to the one who is endowed with it filled and moved his heart." He strains to remain the disinterested artist, sees the analogy between his work and this example of youthful perfection, his hewing from the marble of language and this perfect form, are they not similar? "His eyes embraced that noble figure at the bounds of the blue, and in enthusiastic rapture he believed to embrace beauty itself, form as a thought in the mind of God, the one and pure perfection living in the human spirit and of which a human image and analog was erected here for worship." But this is intoxication, 'Rausch', the frenzy of self-deceit. He believes his own poetic musings - but wanton desire is the worm in the rose. Tadzio is no ideal, he is all too human, and it is no longer beauty as such that Aschenbach worships from afar. He wants, he desires human contact. A look, a smile. Recognition. Well, we know how it ends. Aschenbach, no longer named, but given epithets; the one who is led astray, the confused, the intoxicated, the infatuated, is no longer able to resist, either his own infatuation or the cholera that is infiltrating the whole system. 'Eine sittliche Fabel' Mann calls this, a moral tale. Those artists who give up the dignity of a social position and go in pursuit of beauty will come to disaster. Aha. But it's never that easy, not with Thomas Mann. He delights in undercutting himself, building ambiguities into the work, puzzles for the reader to mull over. What kind of artist is Aschenbach? Are we to admire his mastery and classicizing style? Most of the novel is in free indirect speech, so are we to assume that the narrative voice is Aschenbach's? Those false little classicizing flag-ups at the beginning, a spring afternoon in the year 19.., like Goethe or Kleist, or that over-precious sunrise that Aschenbach sees from his hotel window: after a wingéd word brings a message from Olympia, we are treated to plenty of references to Eos, Cleitos and Cephalos and Orion and then we get this rather recherché description: "At the world's edge began a strewing of roses, a shining and a blooming ineffably pure; baby cloudlets hung illuminated, like attendant amoretti, in the blue and blushful haze; purple effulgence fell upon the sea, that seemed to heave it forward on its welling waves; from horizon to zenith went quivering thrusts like golden lances..." Well, you get the picture - that's the DH Lawrence translation, he really gets that rococo style parody that sloshes into the sentimental. So Aschenbach's claim to be an artist might be seen as doubtful. And we've seen that he equates what he does with Tadzio's beauty, we are constantly told that Tadzio is beautiful, but again, what kind of beauty is this? His teeth are rotten, he's weak and cosseted, the family pet, not at all the athletic Greek God ideal. Effete. Over-pretty, like Aschenbach's sunrise. So is this the story of an artist in pursuit of true beauty, or is it the story of an artist whose artistry is never convincingly portrayed, in pursuit of a beauty that mirrors his own corruption, complaisance and self-mockery? A play of illusions.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mir

    How did I not know that Mann lived in California for a decade? http://www.reuters.com/article/us-ger...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    I find this a difficult work to review. On the one hand, Im awed by the complexity of the narrative, its haunting imagery, the richness of the symbolism and the layers of meaning which Mann was able to give such a short work. On the other hand, a plot involving an older man becoming obsessed with and stalking a beautiful young boy is designed to make 21st century readers feel uncomfortable. Or at least, its designed to make me feel uncomfortable. I have difficulty seeing the Ancient Greek I find this a difficult work to review. On the one hand, I’m awed by the complexity of the narrative, its haunting imagery, the richness of the symbolism and the layers of meaning which Mann was able to give such a short work. On the other hand, a plot involving an older man becoming obsessed with and stalking a beautiful young boy is designed to make 21st century readers feel uncomfortable. Or at least, it’s designed to make me feel uncomfortable. I have difficulty seeing the Ancient Greek practice of paiderastia - the socially acknowledged erotic relationship between an adult man and a teenage boy - which is part of the inspiration for the work, in positive terms. I also have difficulty with the idea that a young male is – or should be - the personification of ideal beauty. However, Mann didn’t write this novella to make readers comfortable. There is painful self-reflection, passion and truth in his writing. The themes he explores - artistic choices, the meaning of beauty, the struggle to accept the inevitability of decay and death - are confronting, challenging and ultimately deeply moving. As I listened to the audiobook I regretted once again my lack of a classical education. I know little about Greek mythology, allusions to which are an important part of the narrative. Not being familiar with the stories to which Mann refers didn’t lessen the intensity of the experience. Familiarity with them would have added an extra dimension to it. Images from this work will haunt me forever. And I’ll never think of Venice in quite the same way again.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Rating: 3.5* of five The Book Report: I feel a complete fool providing a plot precis for this canonical work. Gustav von Ascherbach, literary lion in his sixties, wanders about his home town of Munich while struggling with a recalcitrant new story. His chance encounter with a weirdo, though no words are exchanged between them, ignites in Herr von Ascherbach the need to get out of town, to get himself to the delicious fleshpots of the South. An abortive stay in Illyria (now Bosnia or Montenegro or Rating: 3.5* of five The Book Report: I feel a complete fool providing a plot precis for this canonical work. Gustav von Ascherbach, literary lion in his sixties, wanders about his home town of Munich while struggling with a recalcitrant new story. His chance encounter with a weirdo, though no words are exchanged between them, ignites in Herr von Ascherbach the need to get out of town, to get himself to the delicious fleshpots of the South. An abortive stay in Illyria (now Bosnia or Montenegro or Croatia, no knowing which since we're not given much to go on) leads him to make his second journey to Venice. Arriving in the sin capital of the early modern world, and even in the early 20th century possessed of a louche reputation, brings him into contact with two life-changing things: A beautiful teenaged boy, and cholera. I think the title fills you in on the rest. My Review: I know this was written in 1911-1912, and is therefore to be judged by the standards of another era, but I am bone-weary of stories featuring men whose love for other males brings them to disaster and death. This is the story that started me on that path of dislike. Von Ascherbach realizes he's in love for the first time in his pinched, narrow life, and it's with a 14-year-old boy; his response is to make himself ridiculous, following the kid around, staying in his Venetian Garden of Eros despite knowing for sure there's a cholera epidemic, despite being warned of the dangers of staying, despite smelling decay and death and miasmic uccchiness all around, because he's in love. But with the wrong kind of person...a male. Therefore Mann makes him pay the ultimate price, he loses his life because he gives in and falls hopelessly, stupidly in love. With a male. Mann makes his judgment of this moral turpitude even more explicit by making it a chaste, though to modern eyes not unrequited, love between an old man and a boy. Explicit references to Classical culture aside, the entire atmosphere of the novel is quite evidently designed to point up the absurdity and the impossibility of such a love being rewarding or rewarded. It's not in the least mysterious what Mann's after: Denial, denial, denial! It's your only salvation, faggots! Deny yourself, don't let yourself feel anything rather than feel *that*! This book offends my sensibilities. Gorgeously built images and sonorously elegant sentences earn it all of its points. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tamoghna Biswas

    **4.8 stars** The story is disregarded, or rather discarded by many as a portrayal of homosexual paedophilia, but actually it's not that and reaches out a quite deeper concept. For Gustave von Aschenbach is an artist and though not everything can pass under the excuse of "art for art's sake", this certainly can. For when you view something as a masterpiece when you are an artist in that similar aspect, that feeling is, I think quite different from what we know paedophilia to be. This is where it **4.8 stars** The story is disregarded, or rather discarded by many as a portrayal of homosexual paedophilia, but actually it's not that and reaches out a quite deeper concept. For Gustave von Aschenbach is an artist and though not everything can pass under the excuse of "art for art's sake", this certainly can. For when you view something as a masterpiece when you are an artist in that similar aspect, that feeling is, I think quite different from what we know paedophilia to be. This is where it is distinct and better, for me, than even Nabokov's Lolita. The story is simple and short, (well, simple as long as you think it to be...it's quite complicated and dense and with lots of reference to Greek mythologies) and the ending, though it has the virtue of an open-end, still is nothing that you can't think of. Mann himself said something regarding the story: "Nothing is invented in Death in Venice. The ‘pilgrim’ at the NorthCemetery, the dreary Pola boat, the grey-haired rake, the sinister gondolier, Tadzio and his family, the journey interrupted by a mistake about the luggage, the cholera, the upright clerk at the travelbureau, the rascally ballad singer, all that and anything else you like,they were all there. I had only to arrange them when they showed at once in the oddest way their capacity as elements of composition." Although the last sentence could lead to the interpretation that Death in Venice is largely autobiographical, there are clear differences between Mann and Aschenbach(obviously!) But all in all what deserves special mention is Mann's tremendously fascinating linguistic skills. The author, rightly called a literary elitist and a master of German prose, had probably used every grammatical resources of his language in a virtuoso fashion ; the pages are stacked with big-and-rare words, paradoxical juxtapositions of terms, and very long complicated sentences. The richness of his verbal imagination and the subtlety of his thought are everywhere in evidence. It's a bit hard to get through the prose at the beginning, but the struggle hardly needs to be persistent after a few pages. The pay-off is quite amazing, you will rave about Aschenbach's literary and romantic perspective afterwards, even his dream( not kidding). When I read it for the first time I jumped over the Greek mythological references but it was a wrong decision, a bit of hard work is needed to understand the 'psykhagōgós' reference, for instance, so there's no way for procrastination. As a matter of fact the novella is a dine example of how thin books can have the capability to make you feel more dazed than the so-called chunksters. On a personal note: We all don't have the fortune to understand German, or Russian, or for that matter every language in the work to study the real works of literary giants.I had said earlier that this copy was gifted by my girlfriend for which I'm highly thankful,and it's my personal opinion that this edition that I own is probably the best translation available out there. I've read the others. I can say this. Don't judge this as self-promotion.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Luís

    Here is a text that frightened me and in which I am happy to have been able to penetrate with delight, with concentration also because it is true that the beast is austere does not offer itself easily. With fear also as it relentlessly demonstrated in this novels that confronting pure beauty, "the only idea that can contemplate", inevitably leads to the idea of death. Before opening the book, I had the recent impression of "Death in Venice" on the retina and in the ear of a photomontage from Here is a text that frightened me and in which I am happy to have been able to penetrate with delight, with concentration also because it is true that the beast is austere does not offer itself easily. With fear also as it relentlessly demonstrated in this novels that confronting pure beauty, "the only idea that can contemplate", inevitably leads to the idea of ​​death. Before opening the book, I had the recent impression of "Death in Venice" on the retina and in the ear of a photomontage from Visconti's film against the backdrop of Mahler's fifth symphony. These images, centred on the ageing artist Gustav von Aschenbach pursuing the painful beauty of the ephebe Tadzio on a Venice's beach, is perfectly synchronized as much with the short story's synopsis as with the heavy emotions that the chiselled pen of Thomas Mann makes feel. They helped me to go deeper into the depths of this text, from the fetid dampness of Venice to the older man's switch from rigorous integrity to the madness of love, to the splendid and sepulchral final scene. This work is a moving reading and a mediation on death not to read on a depressing day.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Sumi

    Death in Venice is one of those works of art that is so familiar it seems to have been around forever. Stuffy middle-aged German writer Gustav von Aschenbach vacations in the Floating City, where he gradually becomes obsessed with a beautiful Polish youth named Tadzio staying at his hotel and eventually succumbs to a mysterious cholera epidemic. The novella is a curious mixture of allegorical tale, campy melodrama and academic study of the Apollonian-Dionysian dichotomy. Mann's prose is alternately Death in Venice is one of those works of art that is so familiar it seems to have been around forever. Stuffy middle-aged German writer Gustav von Aschenbach vacations in the Floating City, where he gradually becomes obsessed with a beautiful Polish youth named Tadzio staying at his hotel and eventually succumbs to a mysterious cholera epidemic. The novella is a curious mixture of allegorical tale, campy melodrama and academic study of the Apollonian-Dionysian dichotomy. Mann's prose is alternately fussy, claustrophobic and hypnotically sensual. There's no clear explanation of what happens. Is Tadzio the angel of death? Does he represent everything the intellectual Aschenbach avoided in his life? Is the scholar simply going through a major midlife crisis, involving coming out? All of the above; none of the above – which makes the story frustrating but also amusingly enigmatic. I'm looking forward to reading more Mann, especially one of his big novels like The Magic Mountain.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    Oh so tragic and rather melodramatic...or maybe I'm just remembering the 1971 Luchino Visconti movie version? A man longing to regain the vitality and vigor of youth, goes on holiday and turns ghoulish at the sight of a young Adonis. Death in Venice walks the line of appreciation and pedophilia. Having no problem with homosexuality, but not being down with the man-boy love thing, I cringed more than once. "Don't cross the invisible line!" I may have shouted in my head more than once while Oh so tragic and rather melodramatic...or maybe I'm just remembering the 1971 Luchino Visconti movie version? A man longing to regain the vitality and vigor of youth, goes on holiday and turns ghoulish at the sight of a young Adonis. Death in Venice walks the line of appreciation and pedophilia. Having no problem with homosexuality, but not being down with the man-boy love thing, I cringed more than once. "Don't cross the invisible line!" I may have shouted in my head more than once while reading, definitely while watching. But if you can move beyond the physical, and I did, Death in Venice truly captures the essence of an old, decrepit man trying to recapture the essence of youth. I understood the meaning when I read/watched this as a early 20 something. As a middle-aged man with my aches, pains and regrets, I truly understand the main character's "desire" deep down in my soul. Life and good health do not last forever.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    This is my first experience of Thomas Mann and I am staggered by how much he can pack into a book that I would term more a novella than a novel. First off, nobody would accuse Mann of not being intellectual enough. I stopped several times to ponder the classical allusions that were scattered throughout the story, some of them obvious references and some of them so subtle that they might easily escape your notice. None of them irrelevant, however; all contributing something to the meaning and This is my first experience of Thomas Mann and I am staggered by how much he can pack into a book that I would term more a novella than a novel. First off, nobody would accuse Mann of not being intellectual enough. I stopped several times to ponder the classical allusions that were scattered throughout the story, some of them obvious references and some of them so subtle that they might easily escape your notice. None of them irrelevant, however; all contributing something to the meaning and understanding of the story and most foreshadowing the outcome. The strange conveyance, handed down without any change from days of yore, and so peculiarly black--the only other thing that black is a coffin--recalls hushed criminal adventures in the night, accompanied only by the quiet splashing of water; even more, it recalls death itself, the bier and the dismal funeral and the final taciturn passage. And have you observed that the seat in such a boat, that armchair painted black like a coffin and upholstered in a dull black, is the softest, most luxurious and enervating seat in the world? What a visceral writer he is! Once he engaged me, he kept me to the end, which was one of the finest endings I could imagine. I would caution other readers that the start of this is extremely laborious and slow. It provides information that is essential to understanding this man and his ramblings, but I had to push through the first two chapters. Once Aschenbach makes the decision to go to Venice, the writing begins to flow. There is a predatory element to this novel that makes the reader cringe. Unlike the perversion in Lolita, this perversion is kept in the right perspective for me; the child is innocent and there is no pretense that there is anything pure or acceptable about the thoughts of this old man. There are numerous themes running through this novel. The irony of a man who criticizes others for faults he so obviously shares; the contrast between youth and old age, innocence and corruption; the presence of death in the midst of life; and the corrosive nature of self-importance. It is a novel that begs to be dissected with a scalpel. Can’t say I “enjoyed” it, but I do think it is an important piece of literature that conjure up Poe’s Mask of the Red Death and Wilde’s Portrait of Dorian Grey for me.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bram

    I bet someone could write a masterpiece by taking this books 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 Los 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, whos as well developed, far more relatable, and nearly as interesting as our dear 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.

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