Death in Venice and Other Tales by Thomas Mann
First published 1912
1/1 German author (2013 Book Challenge)
I read the following stories: The Will for Happiness, Little Herr Friedemann, Tobias Mindernickel, Little Lizzy, Gladius Dei, Tristan, and Death in Venice. For the first six stories, I found them to be like very well-written sketches. All were rather interesting to read — Thomas Mann explores unusual situations and ideas, he managed to make me laugh, almost cry, marvel at his descriptions, and sometimes stare at the black ink in confusion…
As for Death in Venice, all themes explored were a bit distant, but at the same time interconnected with each other. Aschenbach’s wanderlust is a result of his shielded and comfortable, but boring life, as a well-known author. He goes to Venice, as he used to, to return back in time to when he used to enjoy travel and writing. However, Aschenbach also has an innate fear of returning to the place and seeing it altered, or realizing himself altered. He goes anyway…
In Venice, Aschenbach shares a hotel with a young and beautiful Polish boy, Tadzio. The elderly man becomes infatuated with younger, always admiring him from a distance. Aschenbach’s infatuation with Tadzio may seem repelling, however, I do not think it was physical or even human. The boy served as the writer’s Muse, it was the Beauty of the young one that he idealized, and which inspired him to write brilliant prose again.
Finally, his Muse becomes the end of Aschenbach, his life sacrificed for Beauty.
This collection of stories is a treasury of quotes.
“Nothing is uglier than a person who despises himself but who, out of cowardice and vanity, is eager to please because he wants to be liked.” ~Little Lizzy by Thomas Mann
“…a writer is a man who has a more difficult time writing than anyone else.” ~Tristan by Thomas Mann
And then there is this quote, which describes Mann’s own decline in quality of prose… it seems:
“…in later years, his style lost its unabashed boldness, its fresh and subtle shadings, it became fixed and exemplary, glib and conventional, conservative, formalistic, even formulaic, and, as tradition tells us about Louis XIV, the aging writer expunged every common word from his diction.” ~Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
Yes, Thomas Mann, you expunged every common word from your diction by the end of Death in Venice. 😉