Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

Death in VeniceThis work made me very uncomfortable and I felt somewhat hypocritical in that I previously praised Lolita without focusing on the subject matter.  Not sure if I am being sexist or that Mann’s character was just less sympathetic.

A renowned writer, lacking inspiration embarks on a journey to Venice in hopes of finding some stimulation.  The result is most certainly stimulating, but of a sexual nature , rather than a motivational one.

Gustave von Aschenbach, an older German writer is quite critical of others and rather repressed.  He travels to Venice for a vacation and becomes infatuated with a young Polish boy staying at the same hotel as he.   As his fascination with the boy grows, his self-control seems to wither along with his health.  His earlier encounter with an elderly homosexual man in which he responds with disdain foreshadows his own suppressed desires that eventually turn into an obsession.

The object of Aschenbach’s desire, Tadzio, is a young Polish boy described as a thing of beauty with pale skin and curly blonde hair.  He is the youngest child and spoiled by his family and enjoys his place as the golden-haired favorite.  He enjoys the beach and the sea and may or may not be aware of the man fixated on his every move.

Quotes:

A solitary, unused to speaking of what he sees and feels, has mental experiences which are at once more intense and less articulate than those of a gregarious man.  

There can be no relation more strange,more critical, than that between two beings who know each other only with their eyes, who meet daily, yes, even hourly, eye each other with a fixed regard, and yet by some whim or freak of convention feel constrained to act like strangers.

I fear I’d be a little intimidated by Mr. Mann’s superior intellect, however, I would try my best to put us both at ease and turn the discourse in his favor.  That he was able to capture feelings of isolation and solitude so deftly are apparent and perhaps he’d share a thing or two of his writing processes.

My rating for Death in Venice is a 7 out of 10.

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Next up, Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved CountryCry the Beloved Country

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