Customer Reviews for

Death In Venice

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  • Posted August 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The book is beautifully written, a pleasant read, and, in my opinion, one of the 100 books you should read in your life.

    Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

    Plot: Gustav von Aschenbach is a famous author in his early fifties who has recently been ennobled and thus acquired the aristocratic "von" to 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, while strolling outside a cemetery, he sees a coarse-looking red-haired man who stares back at him belligerently. Aschenbach walks away, embarrassed but curiously stimulated. Soon afterwards, he resolves to take a holiday.

    He decides on Venice, reserving a suite in the Grand Hôtel des Bains on the Lido island. Aschenbach checks into his hotel, where at dinner he sees an aristocratic Polish family at a nearby table. Among them is an adolescent boy in a sailor suit; Aschenbach, startled, realizes that the boy is beautiful. Soon afterward, after spying the boy and his family at a beach, Aschenbach overhears the lad's name, Tadzio, and conceives what he tells himself is an abstract, artistic interest.

    Soon the hot, humid weather begins to affect Aschenbach's health, and he decides to leave early and move to a more salubrious location. On the morning of his planned departure, he sees Tadzio again, and a powerful feeling of regret sweeps over him. When he reaches the railway station and discovers his trunk has been misdirected, he pretends to be angry, but is really overjoyed, for he did not want to abandon Tadzio; he decides to remain in Venice and wait for his lost luggage. He happily returns to the hotel, and as his admiration for Tadzio continues to grow, Aschenbach wishes to leave Venice dissipate.

    Over the next days and weeks, Aschenbach's interest in the beautiful boy develops into an obsession, comparing his situation to Socrates wooing Phaedrus on desire and virtue.

    Aschenbach watches Tadzio constantly, and secretly follows him around Venice. One evening, the boy directs a charming smile at him, looking, Aschenbach thinks: like Narcissus smiling at his own reflection. Disconcerted, he rushes outside, and in the empty garden whispers aloud, "I love you!"

    Aschenbach next takes a trip into the city of Venice, where he sees a few discreetly worded notices from the Health Department warning of an unspecified contagion and advising people to avoid eating shellfish. He smells an unfamiliar strong odor everywhere, and later realizes it is disinfectant. However, the authorities adamantly deny that the contagion is serious and the tourists continue to wander round the city, oblivious.

    Next, Aschenbach rallies his self-respect and decides to discover the reason for the health notices posted in the city. After being repeatedly assured that the sirocco is the only health risk, he finds a British travel agent who reluctantly admits that there is a serious cholera epidemic in Venice. Aschenbach decides to warn Tadzio's mother of the danger; however, he decides not to, knowing that if he does, Tadzio will leave the hotel and to his own amazement, Aschenbach realizes that he would not be able to go on living without Tadzio.

    One night, a dream filled with orgiastic Dionysian imagery reveals to him the sexual nature of his feelings for Tadzio. Afterwards, he begins staring at the boy so openly and following him so persistently that Aschenbach feels the boy's guardians finally notice, and take to warning Tadzio whenever he approaches too near the strange, solitary man. But Aschenbach's f

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 18, 2011

    Short Sample, Indeed.

    In looking at the really, really good translation of this work, I was struck (on page 3 of the three page sampling) that they, the translators, I presume, transiliterated "PrinzeregenzenstraBe" using the "B" instead of "ss"....sloppy, guys, sloppy. Made me not want to spend the $1 on a different translation. Had hoped to see something new, and, yes, I did!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2007

    The Relentless and Futile Pursuit and Love of Youth

    Death in Venice is somewhat less disturbing than its subject matter might have you believe. Aging writer Gustav Von Auschenbach vacations at a beachfront resort in Venice, admiring the idyllic life but more and more becoming fascinated with the beautiful young son of fellow vacationers. Similar territory is traversed by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the recent Memories of My Melancholy Whores, in which an aging writer finds himself fascinated with an underage virginal girl. Mann got there almost a century earlier, of course. Both books bear more similarities than differences -- the relationships are unconsummated and mostly in the imagination and desire of the protagonist, who is likely a thinly-veiled alter-ego of the author (Mann battled homosexual urges throughout his life, and the setting and characters of Death in Venice were inspired by a vacation taken by Mann and his wife). In both cases, it could be argued that the fascination is with the youthful verve and vitality of the subject rather than a purely sexual urge. Both stories are very slow-paced, relying on characters and exposition to drive the narrative. As a story, I found Death in Venice merely passable -- but as a work of literary art it is undeniably noteworthy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2006

    A truly great read!

    I think this book is magnificent. It is very well written, the plot escalates in an astounding manner, and well Mann is just sincerely a genius. Despite the fact that this is a pedophiliac/homoerotic work, it truly talks about true love. Well atleast true love on behalf of the writer, because young Tadzio is oblivious to what Auschenbach truly feels, or even to his existence. I truly recommend this book, you will not want to put it down, once you start reading. TRULY AN AMAZING READ!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2000

    Mann does not disappoint

    This was my first encounter with Thomas Mann and his haunted protagonists who all seem to possess delicate blue viens as an integral part of their appearance. The stories that were especially memorable were 'Tobias Kruger' and of course 'Death in Venice', although all of the stories included in the collection were very readable. I felt that this edition was a good introduction to Thomas Mann, and my only critism was the front cover which solicited second looks from many fellow travellers on the subway.

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