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Death in Venice
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Buddy Reads > Death in Venice - February Buddy Read

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message 1: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 6043 comments Mod
This is the thread where Sara, Sue, Katy and Helene are planning to read Death in Venice in February. Please feel free to join us!


message 2: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3383 comments I think Terry may be interested too. I sent her a message. I'm looking forward to giving Mann another try. I loved the beginning of The Magic Mountain but became very frustrated with it and didn't think the ending provided a proper payoff.


message 3: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 6043 comments Mod
This will be my first Mann, so I'm happy it is short. I will decide if I want to do more...I have Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family and The Magic Mountain on my TBR. Your evaluation of the later does not make me anxious to get to it.


message 4: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3383 comments A couple of people said they didn't like The Magic Mountain Magic Mountain the first time they read it but loved it the second time. They said it makes a difference where you are in life. I won't be trying it again anytime soon.


message 5: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 6043 comments Mod
Oh, Lord, who knows where I am in life! lol.


Terry | 1844 comments I will join but I need to obtain a copy and clear the decks first, so I may lag behind.
I read The Magic Mountain years ago. I think I enjoyed it as much as anything that was assigned reading. It was for a class called Proust and Mann, and I can say I enjoyed it much more than Swann’s Way, which seemed to go on and on forever. I have never been tempted to return to Proust. But if Woody Allen to Dyane Keaton, can say something like “You’ve read Death in Venice...” then I think I should like to know what he was referencing in Annie Hall. Haha!


message 7: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3383 comments I finished this and have to think on it awhile. I loved the writing but (view spoiler)


Terry | 1844 comments Waiting for my copy to arrive...


message 9: by * (new) - rated it 5 stars

* (00000000) Death in Venice is on my bingo challenge. I would love to join you all!


message 10: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 6043 comments Mod
I had meant to begin this week, but not possible. Hopefully over the weekend. I will wait until I have finished to open your spoiler, Sue.

Welcome, Kaila.


Aubrey (korrick) I won't be joining in, but Mann is one of my favorites (as is his MM), and I'm curious about people's thoughts.


message 12: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 6043 comments Mod
Sue wrote: "I finished this and have to think on it awhile. I loved the writing but [spoilers removed]"

I will need a time to think about this one as well. I will say regarding your spoiler, Sue (view spoiler) For such a short book this one is very complicated. So full of allusions and deeper ideas. I'll work on my views and come back for more comments soon.


message 13: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 6043 comments Mod
Some thoughts:

(view spoiler)


message 14: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3383 comments Sara wrote: "Some thoughts:

When Aschenbach meets the old man on the ship in Chapter Three and rails about his company with the younger group and how he is trying to make himself appear young, I wondered wha..."


Sarah, after thinking on it and reading your last paragraph, it totally changes my feeling of the book! I was too creeped out to see the message about sickness. Now I must change my rating. (view spoiler)


message 15: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 6043 comments Mod
I totally understand. In the beginning I thought, please don't let this be another Lolita, which I found to be the most disgusting book ever because (view spoiler)


Terry | 1844 comments I have started to read the book, in Chapter 2, and my only comment so far is that the prose is quite dense and I find myself re-reading the sentences to make sure I understand them.


message 17: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 6043 comments Mod
I found the first two chapters laborious, Terry, but by the end of Chapter Three the book seemed to acquire a flow and I was fine from there.


Terry | 1844 comments My copy of the book has a lot of short stories also included. When I first started to read, I didn’t realize this, so I read the first short story first. It was pretty easy going and I was thinking that DIV would be the same. I was quite wrong.


message 19: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 6043 comments Mod
I didn't know he had written any short stories. I will have to look them up. I'm still thinking his longer works will be a challenge.


message 20: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3383 comments Sara wrote: "I totally understand. In the beginning I thought, please don't let this be another Lolita, which I found to be the most disgusting book ever because [spoilers removed]"

I don't think I'll ever read Lolita. I know many love it, especially the unreliable narrator aspect but I have a hard time reading about child abuse both physical and sexual.


message 21: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3383 comments Sara wrote: "I didn't know he had written any short stories. I will have to look them up. I'm still thinking his longer works will be a challenge."

The Magic Mountain had sentences that were literally an entire page long. It was a challenge for sure. I loved it at first but it became a slog for me about 1/3 of the way in. I kept pushing on waiting for some great revelation at the end but it never came for me. It probably suffered from extra high expectations in my case, because mountains are my favorite thing. They inspire live changing spirituality which I expected and didn't get from the book. I may try it again someday with lower expectations.


message 22: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 6043 comments Mod
Sue wrote: "Sara wrote: "I totally understand. In the beginning I thought, please don't let this be another Lolita, which I found to be the most disgusting book ever because [spoilers removed]"

I don't think ..."


I seldom regret reading a book, but Lolita is one I wished I had never touched. For me, it was nothing short of disgusting. Another one I put into that category is Love in the Time of Cholera.


Terry | 1844 comments Interesting, but I was able to divorce myself from the child abuse aspect and just appreciate Nabokov’s writing of Lolita. It might be because I matured earlier than many of my peers, and was subject to sexual assault and abuse at a fairly young age, so perhaps I found myself relating a little bit to Lolita.

However, I had a hard time with Pale Fire, because of the writing.

I read The Magic Mountain in college, and compared to Swann’s Way, which I read for the same class, I much preferred the Magic Mountain. However, to this day, I couldn’t tell you why.


message 24: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue K H (sky_bluez) | 3383 comments Terry wrote: "Interesting, but I was able to divorce myself from the child abuse aspect and just appreciate Nabokov’s writing of Lolita. It might be because I matured earlier than many of my peers, and was subje..."

I'm so sorry that you had to endure that Terry. It's interesting that you didn't find it offensive. That may be enough to make me want to read it with a different perspective going in. Even still, I won't be rushing to read it. I didn't care for Pale Fire either so it's hard to motivate.


Terry | 1844 comments I finished it the book today. The first two chapters were hard to get through. It did pick up after that, and his description of the boy was beautiful. Unfortunately, I also thought the stalking might get awful and had it continued, perhaps it would have.

Then, towards the end, I kept expecting the boy to die. I felt tricked in the end with the wrestling in the sand scene.

I guess Mann was saying that pursuit of the sensual life leads to death? Or was it pursuit of art and beauty? For all the words of the essays which comprise the first two chapters, you’d think the message would be clearer. Then again, I can’t say I would agree that this would be a universal truth.


Darren (dazburns) | 2005 comments minor point but
thread title is wrong - no "A" ;o)


John Dishwasher John Dishwasher (johndishwasher) | 221 comments I see everything as metaphor so Aschenbach’s obsession with the boy did not bother me. (view spoiler)


message 28: by John Dishwasher (last edited Feb 16, 2020 03:52PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

John Dishwasher John Dishwasher (johndishwasher) | 221 comments Sara wrote: "Loved the passages with the gondolier who transports him from the ship. Obvious allusion to Charon. ... The red-headed man with the thin lips keeps showing up again and again. What does this mean? "

I think the red-headed dude is the grim reaper.

Sara wrote: "Part of what Aschenbach is struggling with is old age's awe of lost youth. So, his "love" of the child is another form of self-worship, I think.

I see this as a yearning to return to his lost innocence, to the divine. His impromptu cosmetology might address this, too.

Sara wrote: "He could have escaped, ample opportunity to leave Venice, and certainly ample opportunity to stop his obsession with the boy, but he chose his path.

If the story is metaphor, (which is arguable), he cannot leave because as 'the artist' he can never give up his quest for 'beauty' or 'the divine.'

This story is so dense it can be interpreted in many different ways. I would guess whole books have been written on what this story means.


John Dishwasher John Dishwasher (johndishwasher) | 221 comments Thank you for this thread. Very stimulating.


Terry | 1844 comments Thank you for your comments, John. Yes, he was courting death by staying in Venice. I can see that. So the boy could represent death.

Or, as you say, the boy could represent his lost youth, which Ausenbach was seeking, and therefore represents the opposite of death. But when he wrestles the other youth, he almost loses. Is this the struggle for life that youth can win, while the aged cannot?

Or, if Ausenbach holds on to life by pursuing Beauty, as Mann contends an artist would, is the message that it is in the end a futile pursuit? I can buy that.

I think I am going to have to read more about the book’s message to understand it.


John Dishwasher John Dishwasher (johndishwasher) | 221 comments Terry wrote: "if Ausenbach holds on to life by pursuing Beauty, as Mann contends an artist would, is the message that it is in the end a futile pursuit? I can buy that."

"But when he wrestles the other youth, he almost loses."


Yes, I think Mann maybe makes the argument that the 'pursuit of beauty is futile,' as you say, simply by portraying Ausenbach's obsession with the boy as a "debauchery." In other words, as soon as a human being attempts to approach perfect beauty that perfect beauty is defiled. However, there is a purity to Ausenbach's obsession, notwithstanding its creepiness. (I think Mann uses the undercurrent of lust more to reflect its intensity than any physical attraction.)

And this goes to the wrestling vignette. Ausenbach witnesses the boy's 'inferior' (as he calls him), trying to dominate the boy. To me this signified that once the true artist leaves the picture, 'inferiors' not only defile beauty, but intentionally try to smother it. Ausenbach is sees what happens to beauty when artists aren't around.

Mann several times equates 'beauty' and 'the divine.' There is some kind of mysticism in all this, maybe.

Just a theory. But he's working with problems I've thought about for awhile so I kinda grok it. But I'm not saying I'm right. Sometimes I get drunk on a piece like this and wake up the next day embarrassed and hoping no one in that Starbucks saw me talking to myself and flailing my arms about. (just kidding)


Terry | 1844 comments Haha! Grok on!


message 33: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 6043 comments Mod
Darren wrote: "minor point but
thread title is wrong - no "A" ;o)"


Thanks for the catch, Darren. Corrected.


message 34: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 6043 comments Mod
This can get pretty complicated when you start viewing it as allegory. A lot going on at several different levels.


John Dishwasher John Dishwasher (johndishwasher) | 221 comments Sara wrote: "This can get pretty complicated when you start viewing it as allegory. A lot going on at several different levels."

Agreed!! I just watched a video of a lit instructor who has read the thing four times. Each time it meant something different to her. And she is baffled that some see the boy as a symbol of beauty. Whereas I'm baffled that she is baffled. This story is some kind of riddle. Maybe more like a Rohrschach test. Even so, you can feel a meaning in it even if you can't exactly define it. Compelling.


message 36: by Kathleen (last edited Feb 17, 2020 08:05AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kathleen | 4182 comments This is such a fascinating thread! I've been watching it and hoping you all would like this one. I read it a few years back and fell completely in love with it, but was so overwhelmed by my feelings that I couldn't really articulate anything about the meaning.

So when I read John's "you can feel a meaning in it even if you can't exactly define it," I just had to comment--yes!

I definitely felt it was allegory, and about art and the artist's temperament, but your ideas make me want to re-read this very soon!


message 37: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 6043 comments Mod
I loved John's comment as well, Kathleen. It is a book you feel is saying much more than you can articulate. After all the astute commentary here, I feel I need to re-read it and hopefully absorb much more than I did the first time around.


message 38: by * (new) - rated it 5 stars

* (00000000) This was my first time reading anything by Thomas Mann, and I really enjoyed his writing. I felt totally immersed in the world and moods of Aschenbach.

What stood out to me was his pursuit of beauty and perfection (above knowledge) but always from a distance.

After Aschenbach changes his mind about addressing Tadzio directly, Mann writes:

"But the truth may have been that the aging man did not want to be cured, that his illusion was far too dear to him."

It also read to me like an older, experienced artist giving his advice to a young artist. Especially in the way Aschenbach references Socrates and Phaedrus, and then later mentally addresses Tadzio as Phaedrus as if Aschenbach is Socrates. When he feels the sudden impulse to write, we never learn what he's writing, but it's fun to think it might be this story.

When he falls asleep in his chair after watching the myth-infused sunrise, it reminded me very much of his death.

It also seemed notable that his death took only three lines. It seems to say that life is the part worth writing (and reading) about.

It seems likely that I could pull something different out of this from every reading.


message 39: by Sara, Old School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara (phantomswife) | 6043 comments Mod
Kaila wrote: "This was my first time reading anything by Thomas Mann, and I really enjoyed his writing. I felt totally immersed in the world and moods of Aschenbach.

What stood out to me was his pursuit of bea..."


I suspect you are right in thinking there would be something different to find here after every reading. I am enjoying seeing all the different approaches that others have taken to this book--thank you for your thoughts.


John Dishwasher John Dishwasher (johndishwasher) | 221 comments Kaila wrote: "...his pursuit of beauty and perfection (above knowledge) but always from a distance ... we never learn what he's writing, but it's fun to think it might be this story ... It seems to say that life is the part worth writing (and reading) about."

I love these observations.


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