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Death in Venice Reprint Edition

148 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0060576172
ISBN-10: 0060576170
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Editorial Reviews


Novella by Thomas Mann, published in German as Der Tod in Venedig in 1912. A symbol-laden story of aestheticism and decadence, Mann's best-known novella exemplifies the author's regard for Sigmund Freud's writings on the unconscious. Gustav von Aschenbach is a revered author whose work is known for its discipline and formal perfection. At his Venetian hotel he encounters the strikingly handsome young teenager Tadzio. Aschenbach is disturbed by his attraction to the boy, and although he watches Tadzio, he dare not speak to him. Despite warnings of a cholera epidemic Aschenbach stays in Venice; he sacrifices his dignity and well-being to the immediate experience of beauty as embodied by Tadzio. After exchanging a significant look with the boy on the day of Tadzio's scheduled departure, Aschenbach dies of cholera. As in his other major works, Mann explores the role of the artist in society. The cerebral Aschenbach summons extraordinary discipline and endurance in his literary work, but his private desires overwhelm him. --Encyclopedia of Literature --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (May 31, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060576170
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060576172
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #718,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Michael Wischmeyer on May 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
Death in Venice (1912) is a disturbing story, one that is not easy to forget. It is also exceptional literature, a classic of the twentieth century. Thomas Mann's Death in Venice might be best compared to the subtle, psychologically complex fiction of Henry James, Joseph Conrad, and Fyodor Dostoevsky.

In Munich the aging, highly respected author Gustav Aschenbach is in need of change, rest in a new setting, to overcome his growing fatigue that is impacting his writing. While recovering in Venice, Aschenbach slowly, but inexorably, becomes mesmerized by a young Polish boy staying at the seashore with his aristocratic family. Aschenbach is intellectually aware of his growing obsession, but he is seemingly unable to break away. Thomas Mann's somber portrayal of this troubled man is a masterpiece of subtle nuances and psychological intensity.

Thomas Mann's lengthy sentences and complex grammatical structures severely complicate the task of translating Death in Venice. I have read two excellent and yet substantially different translations. The most faithful translation is by Stanley Appelbaum (in this Dover edition, 1995) that tries to be as literal as possible, carefully preserving the comparative length of the original sentences as well as the internal sequence of each original German sentence. Contrastingly, the H. T. Lowe-Porter translation (found elsewhere) is less literal, but is considered the most delightful and readable version, although at the expense of subdividing many of Mann's lengthy sentences. Lowe-Porter's version has been the standard translation for many years.

The Dover edition provides an excellent 10-page commentary, including footnotes.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
I can't imagine how difficult it must be to translate a writer so steeped in his original language as is Thomas Mann. "Death in Venice" and the other stories in this collection are great period - no matter what the language, the ideas and characters stand on their own. What makes this translation so much better is the attention Neugroschel gives to giving us prose that is as good as Mann's original German - this writing is simply beautiful; evocative of the period in which it was originally written without sounding like a joke or a bad imitation of turn of the century fiction. (It's no Henry James satire). Neugroschel has won the PEN/Faulkner award three times for his translations and it's easy to see why. Read his introduction where he talks about Mann's ability to "both evoke and to distance" and how he [Neugroschel] set about translating this feeling into English. This is truly the very best that a translation can be.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
I don't think that Death in Venice operates on the premise that a "life of sensation" is worthwhile, whatever the cost. Mann's story is a complication of the traditional morality tale, and Aschenbach's demise is not a result of his giving in to the pursuit of beauty and visceral experience, but of his previous, total rejection of this kind of surrender. Aschenbach, we are told, lives like a "closed fist," and for this reason is completely unequipped to deal with the combined experience of visiting an unfamiliar and sinister place, and of encountering a boy who provokes a strong physical and emotional response (on a sidenote, occasionally I hear someone label this as a homophobic text, but they are entirely missing the point, I think. As in Henry James's Daisy Miller, Death in Venice, on one level, illustrates the way that forces outside of sex can make sex, or the desire for sex, fatal. It has nothing to do with the act, or desire, itself). It is Aschenbach's perpetual need to take the proverbial "high road" that makes his foray into the world of the sensual so disastrous.
The story is brilliant. Not only does Mann address wonderful themes like the nature of art, artistic impulse, desire, repression, and Orientalism, even, but the writing and narrative trajectory are flawless.
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49 of 56 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
Death in Venice is the first serious study of homoerotic love in the modern novel although many precedents do exist: the ambiguous sonnets of Michelangelo or Shakespeare, Marlowe's tortured Edward II, the androgynous aesthetics of Winckelmann, the lyrical allegories of Rimbaud and the dark insinuations of Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde or Wilde's Dorian Gray. E.M. Forester's posthumously published Maurice is exactly contemporary with Death in Venice.
Death in Venice tells the story of Gustave von Aschenbach, a writer living in Munich. One May afternoon, while strolling through that city's famed English Gardens, von Aschenbach encounters the Wandervogel (hiker); an apparition of an angular, hawklike man, who returns von Aschenbach's gaze before disappearing.
A true ascetic, von Aschenbach has never known the sweet idleness and freedom of youth, but after viewing the Wandervogel he is seized by the desire to travel and leave his labors behind. Finally obeying the urges of his long-repressed, primeval, exotic side, von Aschenbach sets out for Trieste, however after only ten days he decides he dislikes that city and take a boat to Venice instead.
While making the short trip. von Aschenbach encounters yet another apparition--that of an old man, who, through the artifice of makeup and a wig, has attempted to make himself appear young again--to no avail. Disgusted, von Aschenbach promptly hires a gondolier and checks into his hotel on the Lido.
Later that evening, von Aschenbach's attention is hypnotically drawn to a Polish boy of fourteen who is dining at the next table with his family.
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