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Illustrations of their author's belief that a story must tell itself Varying in theme in style in tone each is in its own way characteristic of Mann's prodigious talents From the high art of the famous title novella A story Mann said of deathof the volup. Read this you said handing me Death in Venice you'll enjoy itWhat's it about I askedIt's a story whose entire premise is based on a perverted old man lusting ghoulishly after the youth of a handsome young boy you saidFuck off I shouted I don't usually go in for the old man desires the youthful essence of a boy genre but Death in Venice spoke to me Maybe it's vanity and the fear of losing the beauty and natural exuberance of youth or the sadness felt at the passing and irretrievable loss of those carefree days The fear of growing old and eventually dying that inevitability of having lived is strong in most of us We chase it with creams ointments dyes jells injections and surgery But it only comes once for all of us Even if it's the beauty of another which we wish to preserve as is also the case with the main character in Mann's book we must come to grips with the loss As precious as it may appear the seeming perfection of youth is fleeting in us all Enjoy it while you can but realize you must sooner or later let go

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Death in Venice and Seven Other StoriesTuousness of doom to the irony of Felix Krull the early story on which he later based his comic novel The Confessions of Felix Krull they are stunning testimony to the mastery and virtuosity of a literary giantTranslated from the German by HT Lowe Porter. It took me a long time to get to Mann but I feel in good company with him Lots influence of Poe and Conrad and clearly in company with Dineson who he obviously influenced an operatic tone ironic comic erudite and seemingly a strange mix of a 19th century feel with modern concerns and anxieties Paul Bowles and Bruno Shultz who are two of my favorite writers also claim Mann as an influence and I can see parallels in their work “Death in Venice” is a masterpiece of symbolism and foreshadowing with a sense of growing apocalyptic dread strange events odd characters the old man pretending to be young the weird smelling clown a mysterious epidemic a Dionysian dreamvision and the obsessive uest of narcissismpedophilia It brings to mind Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” Machen’s “The Great God Pan” and “Lolita; and of course a wealth of mythic allusion “Mario and the Magician” is an eerie parable of fascism with a sinister mesmerist that reminds of character from Hawthorne’s House of Seven Gables Hawthorne troublesome parablesallegories is good touchtone for this story “Disorder and the early sorrow” is satire of the changing social order set during the Weimar republic examining the poverty and changingblurring social classes Told through the viewpoint of the history Dr Cornelius who refuses to see his era as part of history as it lacks dignity This is a plenty telling metaphor The Wagner meets Poe in “The Blood of the Walsungs” a tale with elements of the gothic and decadent and filled with opera incest and misanthropy So if you like Gogol Hawthorne Poe Dineson Dante Greek myths and drama Conrad Voltaire Bowles and Shultz; then you should like Mann And consider these lines from the opening paragraph in “Mario and the Magician”; “Luckily for them they did not know where the comedy left off and the tragedy began; and we let them remain in their happy belief that the whole thing had been a play up till the end”

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Death in Venice and Seven Other Stories characters Î eBook, ePUB or Kindle PDF ✓ In addition to Death in Venice this volume includes Mario and the Magician Disorder and Early Sorrow A Man and His Dog Felix Krull The Blood of the Walsungs Tristan and Tonio KrögerThese stories as direct as Thomas Mann'In addition to Death in Venice this volume includes Mario and the Magician Disorder and Early Sorrow A Man and His Dog Felix Krull The Blood of the Walsungs Tristan and Tonio KrögerThese stories as direct as Thomas Mann's novels are complex are perfect. Elements in a CompositionDeath in Venice was published in 1912 when Thomas Mann was 37 The protagonist is in his mid 50’sBoth Mann and his wife Katia acknowledged that virtually all of the elements of the plot were modelled on their trip to Venice in 1911 However I don’t see any value in trying to analyse the novella as an exploration of Mann’s own homoeroticism Mann had to choose prioritise sublimate and arrange his inspiration as elements in a composition I’d prefer to approach the novella on the basis that it addresses abstract issues that were of concern to Mann for the whole of his life Indeed most of them were of eual concern to Goethe Nietzsche and Freud not to mention Socrates and Plato before them and Nabokov subseuently To paraphrase Anthony Heilbut I’d prefer to contemplate the metaphysical implications than the sordid reality I don’t really care if there was a sordid realityOverindulged Intellect Overcultivated EruditionGustav von Aschenbach is a prominent writer who has achieved critical popular and official success He has his father’s sober conscientious nature an Apollonian influence and the darker fiery impulses of the mother a Dionysian influenceThough he had passed through a libertine chrysalis stage he had never truly known leisure the carefree idleness of youthhe hadstumbled in public made false moves made a fool of himself violating tact and good sense in word and deed Yet he eventually gained the dignity to whichevery great talent feels instinctively drawnIn the manner of his father he had overindulged the intellect overcultivated erudition combined the rapture of the will with clever management and so never managed to become an incorrigible bohemianHe was married but soon after became a widower with a daughter who is now married He is unencumbered by any significant female presenceAn experience while waiting for a tram rattles his composure In a scene that foreshadows the primary drama of the novella Aschenbach scrutinises a relatively nondescript male in a bast hat who looks at him so belligerently so directly so blatantly determined to challenge him publicly and force him to withdraw it This experience awakened in him a latent desire and this desire sported eyes He learns to look he learns to see he learns perhaps to gaze His imaginationconjured forth the earth’s manifold wonders and horrors in his attempt to visualize them he sawWhile he has always been averse to diversion and no lover of the external world and its variety he feels an urge to flee his work the humdrum routine of a rigid cold passionate dutyAschenbach’s flight from diligence witnesses him depart to Venice a city which is half fairy tale and half tourist trapHe has succumbed to a Wanderlust The Lust of the WandererOne purpose of the trip might be to satiate not just Aschenbach’s need to wander but his lust as wellNot only does Aschenbach embark on a journey into the outside world but he commences a journey into his own psycheAgain Mann uses a double to foreshadow what is to come this time by describing the atmosphere of one of Aschenbach’s novels Elegant self possession concealing inner dissolution and biological decay from the eyes of the world until the eleventh hour; a sallow sensually destitute ugliness capable of fanning its smoldering lust into a pure flame indeed of rising to sovereignty in the realm of beauty; pallid impotence probing the incandescent depths of the mind for the strength to cast an entire supercilious people at the foot of the Cross at their feet; an obliging manner in the empty punctilious service of form; the life false and dangerous and the swiftly enervating desires and art of the born deceiverThis language of dissolution decay destitution ugliness impotence superciliousness punctiliousness deception hints at the nature of Aschenbach’s inner desire However I prefer the view that this pejorative language is intended to describe not the nature of his desire but the conseuences of repressing it To the extent that we repress desire we are inauthentic The Journey to ElysiumThere is a duality in the journey It seems to be genuinely life affirming but it recognises the inevitability of Aschenbach’s death which is foreshadowed in the title of the novelMann describes the journey in terms of the Elysian Fields Then he would feel he had indeed been whisked off to the land of Elysium to the ends of the earth where man is granted a life of ease where there is no snow nor yet winter no tempest no pouring rain but only the cool gentle breath released by Oceanus and the days flow past in blissful idleness effortless free of strife and consecrated solely to the sun and its feasts 1 2Implicit is not just the promise of a certain joie de vivre but perhaps also a joie de mortIt’s arguable that Elysium represented both the beginning and the end of Aschenbach’s life perhaps the realization of his life It is a place where the uick and the dead mortals and immortals men and gods are oneThe Middle of the JourneyOn the ship out Aschenbach experiences another potential double an ugly version of himself– an older man consorting with youths dressed in an extravagantly cut foppish gaudy suit with a rakishly uptilted Panama hat does the hat maketh the man whom he describes as a superannuated dandy it was repugnant to behold the state to which the spruced up fossil had been reduced by his spurious coalition with the younghe displayed a pitiful exuberance buttonholing everyone who came up to him jabbering winking sniggering lifting a wrinkled ringed finger as a part of some fatuous teasing and licking the corners of his mouth with the tip of his tongue in a revoltingly suggestive mannerNote the almost vicious assonance – spruced up reduced spurious exuberance fatuous suggestive – which might owe something if not everything to the translation Clearly repulsed Aschenbach describes his feelings in terms of warping bent twisted distorted He had the impression that something was not uite normal that a dreamlike disaffection a warping of the world into something alien was about to take holdAschenbach watched him with a frown and once a feeling of numbness came over him as if the world were moving ever so slightly yet intractably towards a strange and grotesue warping a feeling which circumstances kept him from indulging inThe Weft and the Warp in the Social FabricThe reference to indulging seems to suggest that he might have participated but for the circumstances that intervenedThis dualism is woven into the fabric of the novel it is its weft and warp As Aschenbach summarises the events of his voyage he remarks The observations and encounters of a man of solitude and few words are at once nebulous and intense than those of a gregarious man his thoughts ponderable bizarre and never without a hint of sadnessImages and perceptions that might easily be dismissed with a glance a laugh an exchange of opinions occupy him unduly; they are heightened in the silence gain in significance turn into experience adventure emotion Solitude begets originality bold and disconcerting beauty poetry But solitude can also beget perversity disparity the absurd and the forbiddenSolitude can breed aberrant or deviant behavior Society is a leveler a normaliserWretched FigureMann hints at this duality earlier when he summarises Aschenbach’s novel Wretched Figure about a character who acts out of debility depravity or ethical laxityAschenbach’s creative process reflects a moral rigor or ossification as he abandoned his youthful embrace of the existentialist abyss He had sided with convention and cast out the non conformist The power of the word by which the outcast was cast out heralded a rejection of all moral doubt all sympathy with the abyss a renunciation of the leniency implicit in the homily claiming that to understand is to forgive and what was under way here indeed what had come to pass was the ‘miraculous rebirth of impartiality’ which surfaced a short time later with a certain mysterious urgency in one of the author’s dialogues Was it an intellectual conseuence of this rebirth this new dignity and rigor that at approximately this time critics observed an almost excessive intensification of his aesthetic sensibility a noble purity simplicity and harmony of form that henceforth gave his artistic production so manifest indeed so calculated a stamp of virtuosity and classicism The Aesthetic FormStill Aschenbach speculates that this moral rigidity contains a paradox does not moral fortitude beyond knowledge—beyond disintegrative and inhibitory erudition—entail a simplification a moral reduction of the world and the soul and hence a concomitant intensification of the will to evil the forbidden the morally reprehensible And has not form a double face Is it not moral and immoral at once—moral as the outcome and expression of discipline yet immoral even antimoral insofar as it is by its very nature indifferent to morality indeed strives to bend morality beneath its proud and absolute scepterSomething powerful has occurred in these Nietzschean wordsThe type of erudition that Aschenbach targets is inhibitory repressive inauthentic and disintegrative It creates a false dichotomy which ironically intensifies the lure of evilEually importantly Aschenbach has severed form beauty and aesthetics from the realm of morality This permits the remainder of the novel to concern itself with beauty desire and the gaze free of moral connotationsIt’s up to us the readers to determine whether this uest is legitimateThe Beauty of TadzioThis is when a beautiful long haired blonde 14 year old Polish boy called Tadzio comes into the pictureAs would later be the case with Lolita this sentence might be less disturbing for readers if the boy’s age began with a digit other than 1I wish to postpone my discussion of hebephilia to the aesthetic or metaphysical issues I also want to divorce the metaphysical issues from any concern whether the relationship is homoerotic or heteroeroticAschenbach first spies Tadzio while seated on the promenade outside his hotel Aschenbach noted with astonishment that the boy was of a consummate beauty his face—pale and charmingly reticent ringed by honey colored hair with a straight nose lovely mouth and an expression of gravity sweet and divine—recalled Greek statuary of the noblest period yet its purest formal perfection notwithstanding it conveyed a uniue personal charm such that whoever might gaze upon it would believe he had never beheld anything so accomplished be it in nature or in artThe response is an aesthetic one It focuses on formal perfection as if the boy was a work of art a classical Greek statue To the extent that he is beautiful he is also divine a product or act of the gods However Mann goes further than pure artistic analysis Aschenbach observes a uniue personal charm one that might not be found in either nature or art Mann elaborates Good good thought Aschenbach with that cool professional approval in which artists encountering a masterpiece sometimes shroud their delight their excitementI’m interested in his choice of the word shroud which could mean either clothe which is relatively neutral or hide If the latter meaning was intended then it introduces a sense of disingenuousness or insincerityDivine BeautyLater Aschenbach describes the statue as godlike He associates beauty with the divine It is how the divine manifests itself on earth Beauty is perfection of form and perfection is representative of the divine His eyes embraced the noble figure standing there at the edge of the blue and in a rush of ecstasy 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 venerationAschenbach uotes Socrates to Phaedrus For beauty my dear Phaedrus and beauty alone is at once desirable and visible it is mark my words the only form of the spiritual we can receive through our senses and tolerate thereby Think what would become of us were the godhead of reason and virtue and truth to appear before our eyesHence beauty is the path the man of feeling takes to the spiritual though merely the path dear young Phaedrus a means and no The sight of true beauty unsettles Aschenbach as if he had never experienced it in nature or in art before This was intoxication and the aging artist welcomed it unuestioningly 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 fireGazing at Tadzio forces Aschenbach to cast off his moral rigidity He now resides solely within the aesthetic and therefore the spiritual sphere or so it would seemPlatonic FormsThe word form is vital to Mann’s analysis of beauty It reflects Plato’s theory of Forms or Ideas It’s probably also worth mentioning Kant in this context but that’s a whole other story The ideal form is the path by which beauty allows us to travel to divinity or spirituality Mann appears to poke fun at the idea as well Tired yet mentally alert Aschenbach whiled away the lengthy meal pondering abstract even transcendental matters such as the mysterious connection that must be established between the generic and the particular to produce human beauty and moving on to general problems of form and art only to conclude that his thoughts and discoveries resembled certain seemingly felicitous revelations that come to us in dreams and after sober consideration prove perfectly inane and worthlessAgain it’s difficult to determine whether this apparent aside is designed to undermine our perception of Aschenbach’s sincerityThe Subject’s Relationship with the Object of BeautyOnce an object of beauty exists we can look at and see it We gaze at it We desire it Our desire sports eyes To reverse the order of Socrates’ dictum beauty is both visible and desirableThe object of my desire is a vehicle through which I can experience something beautiful feel good and witness something divine godly or spiritualThe German word Sehnsucht describes the sense of longing yearning or craving for the object of desire as well as the sense that something is missing or incomplete feels this Sehnsucht acutely because he is a writer Again he cites Socrates we poets cannot follow the path of beauty lest Eros should join forces with us and take the leadpassion is our exultation and our longing must ever be love—such is our bliss and our shameOur longing manifests itself as love So it is that Aschenbach whispered the standard formula of longing—impossible here absurd perverse ridiculous and sacred nonetheless yes still venerable even here I love youYes Aschenbach has made a silent declaration of love but has he made a fool of himself againLust in LongingThe perception of beauty gives the subject an experience of the divine This allows the subject to internalize the divineMannAschenbach uses this mechanism to describe a paradox And then he Socrates made his most astute pronouncement the crafty wooer namely that the lover is divine than the beloved because the god dwells in the former not the latter which is perhaps the most delicate most derisive thought ever thought by man and the source of all the roguery and deep seated lust in longingSocrates’ describes the desire for a whore or a comely maid as lust whereas a man's desire for his wife is love even though it is also part lustPerhaps the uotation of Socrates is directed at the dissociation of love and lust where lust dominates in which case it constitutes rogueryWhile Aschenbach does not consummate his love or longing for Tadzio some readers might believe that his love is mere rationalization of his lustTransgressive LustI don’t consider homoerotic love to be transgressive The gender of the love object is personal to the subject I am interested in the metaphysics and the mechanisms of desire lust and love and their mutual fulfillment than the gender of the objectI also don’t see any point in trying to analyse Mann’s personal views on homosexuality within a literary context I think that he places all forms of love within the same metaphysical framework I believe that beauty desire lust and love are subjective Each of us carries around in our mind a form which we apply to each object upon which we gaze To the extent that the object and the ideal conform we find it beautiful and we feel good Social standards and ideals of beauty might impact on us but that does not detract from the subjectivism of our own preferencesYou Can Look But You Can’t TouchReaders might wish to form a view with respect to Aschenbach’s hebephiliaThis is a moral and legal issue determined and enforced by social sanction Mann suggests that Aschenbach lost his moral compass when he sat in the morning by the sea his gaze—heavy injudicious and fixed—resting on the object of his desire or when as evening fell he resumed his undignified pursuit through the narrow streets clandestinely haunted by loathsome dying things monstrous seemed auspicious and the moral code null and voidHowever apart from thinking and stalking Aschenbach never actually did anything either immoral or illegal He never consummated his passion for the object of his desire He might have had a cosmetic makeover he might have been in search of his lost youth but he did not transgress with any other lost youth I think he was genuinely in loveSun Leisure and Sea BreezesAschenbach’s journey took him to the edge of the Elysian Fields the edge of the sea Oceanus a beach where the sun diverts our attention from the intellectual to the sensual Tadzio was the metaphorical vessel by which he arrived thereAs we can glean from the title Aschenbach also died there As Aschenbach dies in his chair Mann plays around with the identity of the perspective he is describing At first it is Aschenbach’s then it appears to be Tadzio’s then it reverts to Aschenbach Each one gazes at the otherI suspect that Mann’s intention was to transmit Aschenbach’s aesthetics to Tadzio if he did not already subconsciously share themIf we remove the hebephilic issue by substituting a consenting adult object then the novella is an elouent argument not to repress desire except within moral and legal limits It is the overindulged intellect overcultivated erudition that is disintegrative and inhibitory and therefore unhealthy Mann was trying to integrate the Apollonian and the Dionysian spirits I still think it’s a good idea