Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family (Woods translation)

Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family (Woods translation)

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by Thomas Mann

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A Major Literary Event: a brilliant new translation of Thomas Mann's first great novel, one of the two for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1929.

Buddenbrooks, first published in Germany in 1900, when Mann was only twenty-five, has become a classic of modem literature — the story of four generations of a wealthy bourgeois family in


A Major Literary Event: a brilliant new translation of Thomas Mann's first great novel, one of the two for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1929.

Buddenbrooks, first published in Germany in 1900, when Mann was only twenty-five, has become a classic of modem literature — the story of four generations of a wealthy bourgeois family in northern Germany. With consummate skill, Mann draws a rounded picture of middle-class life: births and christenings; marriages, divorces, and deaths; successes and failures. These commonplace occurrences, intrinsically the same, vary slightly as they recur in each succeeding generation. Yet as the Buddenbrooks family eventually succumbs to the seductions of modernity — seductions that are at variance with its own traditions — its downfall becomes certain.

In immensity of scope, richness of detail, and fullness of humanity, Buddenbrooks surpasses all other modem family chronicles; it has, indeed, proved a model for most of them. Judged as the greatest of Mann's novels by some critics, it is ranked as among the greatest by all. Thomas Mann was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1929.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A remarkable achievement . . . In Woods’s sparkling translation, the reader encounters a work that is closer in style, vocabulary, idiom, and tone to the original.”—NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW“Wonderfully fresh and elegant . . . Essential reading for anyone who wishes to enter Mann’s fictional universe.”—LOS ANGELES TIMES

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A superior new translation of Mann's 1901 saga about four generations of an affluent German family. (July)
Library Journal
The reissue of Mann's wonderful first novel in a new translation is a cause for rejoicing. In loving, ironic, and sympathetic detail, Mann portrays several generations of a merchant family who belong to the bourgeois aristocracy in Lubeck, tracking them from high point to decline. While the author himself helped Lowe-Porter in the authorized English translation (1938), Woods simply has a better ear for dialogue and for smoothing Mann's German syntax into a more naturally flowing English one. He is even so bold as to tackle puns that Lowe-Porter pretended weren't there. Highly recommended.-- Michael T. O'Pecko, Towson State Univ., Md.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage International Series
Edition description:
1st Vintage International ed
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.14(w) x 7.97(h) x 1.25(d)

Meet the Author

John E. Woods is the distinguished translator of many books — most notably Arno Schmidt's Evening Edged in Gold, for which he won both the American Book Award for translation and the PEN Translation Prize; Patrick Suskind's Perfume, for which he again won the PEN Translation Prize in 1987; Mr. Suskind's The Pigeon and Mr. Summer's Story; Doris Dorrie's Love, Pain, and the Whole Damn Thing and What Do You Want from Me?; and Libuse Monikova's The Facade. Mr. Woods lives in San Diego and is currently at work on a translation of Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain.

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Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
comett More than 1 year ago
Buddenbrooks (1901) is one of the two great works that earned Thomas Mann the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929. It is primarily set in Mann's birthplace, the northern German city of Lubec, between the 1830s and the 1870s and spans four generations of an affluent entrepreneurial family. Three of the novel's third generation of Buddenbrooks remain with the reader for most of the novel and are pivotal to plot and the family's ultimate fate. Each differs from the other two, but all maintain a close relationship with their mother, Elizabeth Buddenbrook, with whom they frequently connect for various family functions; some happy, others not. A sister, Tony, perseveres through adversity to live vicariously through her family's social status and the successes of her father, brother, and the family's grain marketing business. But enmity characterizes the relationship between her two brothers: Christian, a ne'er-do-well playboy, consistently squanders his share of the family fortune while Thomas, the elder of the two and arguably the novel's most thoroughly developed character, as well as his generation's patriarch, is a successful businessman and local politician with an identity so intertwined with family tradition and business that he easily becomes disenchanted with his musically talented son Hannu (an only child and sole male cousin) who remains socially withdrawn and has no interest in plying the family trade. Such dynamics beg the rhetorical question: what becomes of remaining family members when those who provide nurturing or economic security pass away and sentimental or symbolic structures are sold (family home) or close down (grain business) because nobody has the wherewithal to keep things going as they were? On a concluding note, Buddenbrooks, a novel in praise of the intact family as a source of stability and security, has withstood the test of time to remain a welcome addition to any university literature course emphasizing the 19th and early 20th century novel. It will appeal most to those who enjoy fictional works focusing on social interactions and family dynamics.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first novel from Thomas Mann, and what a novel. It is something quite astonishing, that he received the nobel prize basically because of this novel (although he got it almost twenty years later). It is not Thomas Mann's best, but it is a true classic of the XXth century. The novel follows the decadence of the Buddenbrooks family, from their peak to its dissapearance. The main characters are the three kids we meet in the first part of the novel (Toni, Thomas and Christian). They have to learn the rules to maintain their status, even if they take their loves away, their pride, and even, their love for live. Toni learns that her idilic romance is nothing but a lie, which cannot be carried. Christian is never able to find himself in a world, where his brother is usefull and commands the destiny of the family. And Thomas is unable to run the family business with ease. These conditions join a new set of conditions to make business (as the XIXth century comes to an end, 'new moneys' begin to appear and to change the way of making business). When Thomas thinks that his getting a place in the local government is a big sign of everlasting prosperity, he is unable to see how far is the control of the world from the politics 'per se'... it is more and more the world of politics being controlled by economic power. And his economic power decreases day by day. One has to marvel at the beauty in certain passages, such as Toni romance in Travemünde (which is located in Lübeck), the depiction of one day in the life of a decadent, Thomas realization that he is not only linked to his own family, but to the whole world. Thomas Mann's great use of irony allows the reader to read further the lines... to pass the romantic, tragic or comedic tone of certain passages and be able to connect them to a broader range of relations: society, politics, emotional life, psychology, literature and art. I love this book. Not as much as The Magic Mountain, or Doctor Faustus... but I love it more than any contemporary novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this again after many years. It had aged well. Truly engrossing, great descriptive power, elegant and polished, if one likes Mann's somewhat wordy style.