Esdaile's Reviews > Doctor Faustus

Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann
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Oct 09, 11

bookshelves: german, politically-committed, my-50-favourite-novels, my-1-00-on-a-desert-island
Read in January, 1973

This book belongs to what Harold Bloom called "the Western canon" despite the leitmotif-the biography of Nietzsche/Leverkühn being based in this account on what is most likely to be a falsehood, namely that Nietzsche suffered and eventually went mad as a result of syphilis contracted in his student days in Cologne or possibly Leipsic. I have read the book four times, three times in English and once in German. It is a parable so realsitically presented that I had to pinch myself to remind myself that Adrian Leverkühn is a fictional character, so realistically so vividly is his life portrayed. The novel operates at three levels at least of allegory-for Leverkühn is Germany, is the Dr. Faustus and Germany and Nietzsche and Thomas Mann's attraction and repulsion are the attraction and repulsion of Dr. Faustus for the diabolical, the magical, Thomas Mann's own profound patriotism later turned sour and into bitter reproach and hatred. He is the writer of the extremely conservative,m nationalistic "Reflections of an Unpolitical Man" and the broadcaster of War propaganda for the Allied networks, welcoming the terror bombing of Germany. Germany is seduced by the diabolical and is damned for perpetuity while the end culminates Mann's forlorn cry of love for his poor friend. Thomas Mann is Faustus and Mephistopheles and also the objective artist serene Time's Flower (Serenus Zeitblom), Leverkühn's first biographer. Helen Low Porter has been criticised for her translations of Thomas Mann, justly perhaps with regard to the short stories, but surely not here, where she superbly captures Mann's ponderous yet never tedious "Spenglerian" literary style.
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