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Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family Paperback – June 28, 1994

4.6 out of 5 stars 98 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A superior new translation of Mann's 1901 saga about four generations of an affluent German family.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From 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 dialog 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.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 731 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage International (June 28, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679752609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679752608
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
What a joy it was to read this book. It is the story of a very average family in Lubeck somewhere in the last century. The description of the members of this familiy with all their flaws, carefully depicted in all detail like in the great realistic paintings, is wonderful and it is difficult to believe that the writer was only 25.
In particular his description of the "kleinbuergerlichkeit"( I have not seen this German word translated correctly in any language, but it means something like the small citizen in a small town)is phenomenal.
In the reviews I see quite some comments on the translation. I am both fluent in German and English and I have read this translation with the original on the side. Indeed, the absolute purist may complain that some of the German nuances and wordgames Mann likes to use get lost. However, you have to have such a good understanding of the German, that you would not need a translation. In my view the translator absolutely got the spirit of the novel right and was able to re-create this typical small town atmosphere in Northern Germany very, very well. And fact is, Mann in German is very difficult, even for Germans. This translation has made the work of an unique author available to a wider public
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Buddenbrooks is the most autobiographical of Mann's works--and the one that most of all, earned Mann the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Mann grew up in a prosperous Luebeck family, son of a merchant father who died in 1891. The dissolution of the family firm, the artistic, Southern Creole background of Mann's mother and the struggle between the materialistic merchant side and the wild, artistic side are the backdrop for a deep regret, maybe even self-recrimination, for the family's ultimate decline. The family line ends, in Buddenbrooks with Hanno, son of successful and foppish Senator Thomas Buddenbrooks. When Thomas dies, the family firm is broken up and the family starts the deep decline already in process. Hanno's red-haired, violin-playing mother couldn't care less. ("I live for Art" would seem to have been written with her in mind.) Hanno's aunt Toni is left to mourn the family's end--though Toni's own earnest efforts to hold up family honor also ended in disaster. Some declines, apparently, are natural and cannot be prevented.
Interestingly, Mann puts a bit of himself in Toni as well as Hanno; he worked for a fire insurance company as did Toni's luckless son-in-law, he moved to Munich as Toni did in Buddenbrooks. The other characters, Thomas's ne'er-do-well brother Christian, and especially the grandparents are beautifully drawn and developed.
This is one of the best family chronicles written, and even if you don't love "great literature" you will enjoy this book. It's been filmed as well as a mini-series, but frankly, nothing comes up to reading this for yourself. I couldn't put this novel down once I started it. And it is a hefty book, though not the longest by Mann.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Buddenbrooks tells the story of three generations of a proud family in the mid to late 19th century. Sadly, the family heritage begins to sink into a quagmire of bad business decisions, bad marital decisions, apathy and just plain bad luck.
What really sets this opus (and other Mann novels) apart from "standard fare" works of literature is the depth and richness of personalities which are found in its characters. There are no "stock characters" to be found in Mann. By the end of the novel, I felt as though I personally knew the Buddenbrooks and as such was compelled to feel sad about their fate. I can think of no higher compliment that I could possibly grant a novel.
The story tells of a family which thought it would continue to prosper forever. The stark reality soon sets in that the family will have to struggle in order to retain any sort of Buddenbrook dignity at all. It seems that entropy increases with each successive generation, and seemingly nothing can reverse the trend...
So, read this book. Join the Buddenbrooks thru decades of weddings, funerals, musical performances, travels to the beach and deep existential philosophical inquiries. A wonderful glimpse of changing social structures and traditions in mid to late 19th century Germany. life.
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Format: Paperback
This is a beautiful narrative, which will stay with you forever, if not in detail then in the musical arc of its composition. The book is about a family, the Buddenbrooks, who are wealthy but not aristocrats, who have as their solid moral foundation the maintenance of the family business. The degree to which each member of the family supports and conforms to this moral code, and the degree to which their personal motives and the turns of fate conflict with them, determines the level of tension at any given point in the narrative.

The narrative moves through the first third of the book in a series of sometimes startlingly short chapters, introducing the characters and the musical threads that will repeat and vary throughout the rest of the novel. It's actually quite refreshing to read, not heavy at all. But the psychological depth is also not there, except in the reader's probable discomfort with the moral code being expressed.

In the second third, after the death of the pious and morally-firm Jean, the first son Thomas assumes control of the family, and the narrative begins to reflect the deep dissatisfaction with the family values that Thomas suppresses for the rest of his life. Thomas's sister, Tony, and his brother, Christian, provide the extremes of adaptation to un-felt values.

Tony begins her theme in a Romeo and Juliet story where Juliet accepts her fate and marries Paris, finding in this surrender the beauty of piety, as exemplified by her father. With great exuberance she literally writes her theme in the family history (a journal/scrapbook). Anyone who does not conform to the moral code of the family is evil (sometimes real, sometimes not), and she finds redemption and purity in expressing her hatred of this evil.
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