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The Black Swan

3.46  ·  Rating Details  ·  351 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
Thomas Mann's bold and disturbing novella, written in 1952, is the feminine counterpart of his masterpiece Death in Venice. Written from the point of view of a woman in what we might now call mid-life crisis, The Black Swan evinces Mann's mastery of psychological analysis and his compelling interest in the intersection of the physical and the spiritual in human behavior. I ...more
Hardcover, 155 pages
Published November 12th 1990 by University of California Press (first published 1953)
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229th out of 514 books — 79 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 783)
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Carmo Santos
Aug 03, 2014 Carmo Santos rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: alemanha, nobel
Desta vez Mr. Mann torrou-me a paciência. Não o detestei mas andei lá perto.
O excesso de formalismo da linguagem - sobretudo se tivermos em conta que a maioria dos diálogos são entre mãe e filha - cansa rapidamente. São demasiados salamaleques e um sentimentalismo exagerado que tornou os diálogos forçados e inverossiméis.
Depois, a própria temática do livro. Os amores impossíveis já recorrentes no autor, que desta vez escolheu uma mulher de cinquenta anos e um jovem de vinte e quatro. Nada demai
I was neither peppered nor slashed and didn't get my Easter properly smacked by the rod of life. I believe all this was lost in translation and I do wish I could find a copy of this book that was translated by one of Mann's more fluid translators that understood his prose. This one was clunky and rudimentary which is so unlike Mann's other works. It was hysterical and even silly given that it was written in 1952 by an eighty-year-old who had breached much deeper taboo subjects.
Unable to rate
Apr 23, 2014 Nesli rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-my-library
Thomas Mann'ın okuduğum ilk kitabı. Yazarın hayatıyla ilgili birazcık araştırma yaptığımda taşlar yerine oturdu.
Kitapta eşi ölmüş, topal kızı ve ergen oğluyla yaşayan bir kadının ilerleyen yaşına rağmen, kendisinin yarı yaşındaki bir adama umarsızca nasıl tutulduğu anlatılıyor. Aşık kadının kızıyla yaptığı konuşmalar, doğanın ve aşkın doğallığını savunan yaklaşımlar gayet hoştu. Ancak anladığıma göre bu, buz dağının görünen kısmı. İçerisinde bambaşka bir hikaye yatıyor. Yoksa yazarın kadın ruhu
In the early 1950s, near the end of his life, Thomas Mann wrote a novella about a widow, Frau Rosalie von Tummler, and her two children, Anna and Eduard. This story, The Black Swan, was based, like many of Mann's stories, on his observations and experiences of his own life. In a way the story mirrors Death in Venice written four decades earlier. That story told of the love of an older man, Gustav von Aschenbach, for a young boy. In the Black Swan we have an older woman, Rosalie, falling in love ...more
Jul 23, 2012 Gini rated it liked it
This was an interesting little book. Thomas Mann's "Buddenbrooks" was recommended to me as a historical novel of Germany. I decided to read this first because it was much shorter. I would not classify it as historical fiction though it does take place in the past. I'm not sure how I would classify it. Basically I would say it is about a woman learning to deal with widowhood, her changing relationship with her son and daughter, mostly her daughter, growing older and the physical changes that brin ...more
Aug 03, 2014 Anthony rated it really liked it
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Jul 23, 2014 Benan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ruh ve beden arasındaki uyum ve çelişkiler temelinde “ben” ya da toplum tercihi üzerine yazılmış öyküyü beğendim.İki ana karakter arasında geçen diyaloglar Platon ya da Sokrates’in bir öğrencisi ya da yabancı bir kişi ile yaptığı sohbetleri hatırlatıyor. Bazı cümleler o kadar derin ki, bu cümleleri sarf eden kişinin bir erkek olması kadınlar için ayrı bir umut kaynağı oluyor.Öyküdeki sohbetlerde normalde pek de yan yana kullanmadığımız bazı kelimelerin çok başarılı bir şekilde bir araya getirilm ...more
Sep 10, 2010 Clara rated it really liked it
I liked the way it was old fashioned and modern at the same time, but I wish I could read it in German, for I think the formality of the characters' speech might come across as merely formal and not cheesy. I skimmed through parts of this book, and while I think I experienced its complexities, I might have missed some of its brilliance. I give it three stars for itself and one star for Thomas Mann's American, the soul-numbingly boring Ken Keaton.
Alia S
Dec 26, 2014 Alia S rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2014
Youth is feminine, and age's relationship to it is is masculine, but age is not happy and confident in its desire, it is full of shame and fear before youth and before all Nature, because of its unfitness.

Picked this up mostly because it was short and I wanted to read Mann at a sampler-size ... after attempting "The Magic Mountain" and abandoning it out of sheer laziness. Also I thought this was the "Black Swan" of the ballerina movie. Basically I'm a complete plebe.

Fortunately for me the book r
Susan Grodsky
Dec 22, 2013 Susan Grodsky rated it really liked it
A subtle psychological novel. No wars no duels no explicit sex. But the most common, most forgettable events --such as the hiss of a swan -- become freighted with meaning.
Sam Gilbert
Aug 15, 2015 Sam Gilbert rated it liked it
In spite of a divinely vile passage involving a pile of excrement near a dead animal, this is a fairly tedious novella in the style of Goethe—largely dialogues in which mother and daughter go on at considerable length about the nature of nature. The end, with its revial of Hofrat Behrens and all of the themes familiar from Der Zauberberg, offers a measure of satisfaction (she dies), but in general this is evidence of considerable artistic decline.
Sep 11, 2015 Eric rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow!! this little book (~100 pages!) packs a BIG punch. a late masterpiece from Mann. after setting up his simple premise & letting his three main characters go thru somewhat predictable motions, the extraordinary finale sends this story high into the stratosphere, tying the protagonist's mental state to her physical one in an altogether startling & radical way. I've heard it referred to as Mann's feminine companion piece to Death in Venice, but whereas that tale feels more lugubrious, t ...more
Jul 29, 2015 Kyc rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not one of Mann's best stories IMHO, though one of his last. Mann's tortuous sentence constructions here seem merely old-fashioned - and this reads more like a nineteenth-century realist work more than a 20th-century one. The ending is quite affecting though. The premise has been worked through many times by other writers, and I don't think this is one of the more memorable variation.
Oct 18, 2007 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
They say on the back cover that Black Swan is a kind of retelling of Death in Venice from the perspective of a heterosexual woman going through menopause. It is superficially: older person desires younger object of affection. But the writing is very different, almost purposefully clunky at times (only to give way to a strange kind of rushed elegance in the concluding pages). And the concerns seem different, too. The themes are less about sacrifice and beauty and more about the clash of systems o ...more
This was a very interesting read. Some critic has described it as "the female version of Death in Venice," as it concerns an older woman in love with a younger man. However, the focus is on her menopause, or rather the apparent return of her menstrual cycle. Like all of Mann's books, this is a masterly work, even if it is a little novella.
So short that it seems more of a long story, I read it in a couple of days which might be the best approach to it, given its structure. Although it's a very late work, it's set in the 1920s, which might be a reason for the fairy-tale quality of both the story and the telling. Perhaps therefore the reader is meant to take a moral from it, but if this is intended, it's less appealing, though there's certainly enough of a plot to carry one along -- if the ending isn't telegraphed, which in my case, ...more
Sep 10, 2015 Liz rated it it was ok
Very quick read, novella/short story length. I have not read Thomas Mann before; if this is representative, I probably wouldn't seek out more of his writing.
Aug 05, 2014 5thrtb rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
I found this novella absolutely boring. I would have given it a 1 star, but the last 4 pages were amusing enough to give it a second star.
Jul 19, 2014 Nichole rated it really liked it
Even more beautiful the second time through.
"But how should there be spring without death?"
Feb 27, 2015 Anuja rated it really liked it
A simple, endearing plot set in one of the most turbulent times of Post War Germany.
Jul 12, 2014 Clifford rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2014
You are never to old to fall in love.
Lloyd Scott
Mar 27, 2009 Lloyd Scott rated it really liked it
Here is a short gem of a novel written by the late great thomas mann; I had no idea wat it was about and I am glad that I did not find out until the end, it literally blew me away. This is truly a must read, if you've ever wanted to read a book by thomas mann, start here, this is easy to read unlike some of his many other novels that are long, intense and at times they seem endless, and lest you forgot he studied to be a Doctor, hence his intense writing.
Jan 15, 2014 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Very interesting twist on "Death In Venice." Loved that this is from a woman's point of view. Very interesting voice and unique novella.
I thought this was kind of funny in a melodramatic way. (spoilers) First, I think the moral of the story is don't love a man who is young enough to be your son. You will get cancer. And die. And second, Mann writes about women talking about their womanhood in the way Austen writes about women talking about men. I'm sorry. I definitely do not get giddy over my bodily functions.
Oct 05, 2012 Glenn rated it liked it
The female side of Death in Venice. A menopausal German widow becomes infatuated with her son's American tutor. Unlike Death in Venice where we are locked into Gustav's head, Mann's shift of perspective between Rosalie and her daughter dilutes the story somewhat. Still, it must have been revolutionary for its time and the prose is lyrical. 3 and half stars if I could.
Aug 14, 2009 Maggie rated it liked it
A little slice of life.. a good short story, with enough content to spread into a novella, though the beginning is a bit slow, and the end is a bit fast. Hits some major themes of aging and human nature, with a message about appreciating the feelings our natures give us. Maybe. Probably could be analyzed more deeply than I have done, but it holds up without that too.
I didn't hate it, but I also didn't love it. It really didn't leave much of an impression on me beyond being a bit surprised at how well Mann understands the complex relationship between women and their periods. I also was a bit saddened for the Frau.
Lukas Kain
Jun 04, 2008 Lukas Kain rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people going through menopause
Recommended to Lukas by: Auntie's classics shelf
Apparently supposed to be a companion piece to Death in Venice, I appreciated this one a lot. Basically, an older woman falls in love with her children's tutor, and suddenly feels the rush of youth again. Interesting ideas on love, aging, and what have you.
Jun 12, 2015 Yvette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An interesting and racey book! Wonderful character treatments and divine prose. Having just finished this novella, I must say that the theme of "mid-life crisis" is relevant for today. Mann has treated the "feminine psyche" as it were, quite well.
Mar 17, 2014 Sheri-lee rated it liked it
I always find it interesting how Mann's character's can be so blinded by their own motivations...and how it makes me reflect how a book written about myself would likely be very similar.
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Thomas Mann was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate, known for his series of highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intel
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“If poets use such expressions it is because they need them, because emotion and experience force them out of them, and so it is, surely, with me, though you think them unbecoming in me. You are wrong. They are becoming to whoever needs them, and he has no fear of them, because they are forced out of him.” 1 likes
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