§ion=&combo2=&text1=&text2=&SocNetUsername=&SocNetPassword=&authCode=& 7th Decade Thoughts: Death of Venice by Thomas Mann

7th Decade Thoughts

Thoughts about books, politics and history (personal and otherwise), pictures I've taken and pictures I've edited.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Death of Venice by Thomas Mann

This was a reread, partly for the Venetian setting and partly because it’s one of those stories that is referred to all the time and I’d forgotten the details. I liked it a lot, though in the beginning I found a lot of infelicitous English translations. (Translator was Helen Tracey Lowe-Porter--don't know if there's a newer one.) Once I got into the story though, I didn’t notice them.

Seems like I’ve experienced several works these days about older men who’ve eschewed human contact more and more as they’ve aged but who go through some experience which opens them up to human contact and to love. The last one, before this, was Ingmar Bergman’s film Wild Strawberries where an elderly man takes his daughter-in-law with him as he drives to Lund where he’s to be given an honorary degree. He stops near the home in the country where his large family used to spend summers and the combination of summer with its wild strawberries and the location causes him to “dream” of the past and as a result to soften his approach to his son and daughter-in-law as well as some traveling students they gave a ride to on the way.
That’s not exactly like Death in Venice—and has a much happier ending—but in the way that the doctor’s dreams of love in his youth softens and awakens his human sensibilities so does Aschenbach’s intense experience with the Polish boy awaken a part of himself that's long been buried. Aschenbach sees young Tadzio on the beach and is struck by his beauty—he’s sort of pre-teen I’m assuming, no hair in his armpits but clearly an awakening sexuality as evidenced by the other children who flock to him and in his own growing awareness of Aschenbach’s attention. Aschenbach, the intellectual, though processing his experience through the frame of Socrates’ dialogue with Phaedrus. The resurrection that occurs for the doctor in Bergman’s film, though, is not the result for Aschenbach who ignores warnings of plague in Venice and ultimately succumbs on the beach, dying of the renewal of his feelings of love.


Anonymous Tom Cunliffe said...

Mann is one of my favourite authors, yet strangely this is one book I have yet to read. You describe it very well and encourage me to take the plunge!

9/22/2009 03:10:00 PM  

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