Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

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Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
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Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

One of the most famous literary works of the 20th century, the novella “Death in Venice” embodies themes that preoccupied Thomas Mann (1875–1955) in much of his work; the duality of art and life, the presence of death and disintegration in the midst of existence, the connection between love and suffering, and the conflict between the artist and his inner self. Mann’s handling of these concerns in this story of a middle-aged German writer, torn by his passion for a Polish youth met on holiday in Venice, resulted in a work of great psychological intensity and tragic power. It is presented here in an excellent new translation with extensive commentary on many facets of the story.

Published on the eve of World War I, a decade after Buddenbrookshad established Thomas Mann as a literary celebrity, Death in Venice tells the story of Gustav von Aschenbach, a successful but aging writer who follows his wanderlust to Venice in search of spiritual fulfillment that instead leads to his erotic doom.

“In the decaying city, besieged by an unnamed epidemic, he becomes obsessed with an exquisite Polish boy, Tadzio. “It is the story of the voluptuousness of doom,” Mann wrote. “But the problem I had especially in mind was that of the artist’s dignity.”

Death in Venice by Thomas Mann is one of Geoff Dyer’s and John Irving’s favorite books.