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Death in Venice (Norton Critical Editions)
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am 3. Mai 2000
The incestuous love between Siegmund and Sieglinde in Thomas Mann's "The Blood of the Walsungs" is based on a self-centered narcissism. The twins love each other because each reminds the other of themselves: "They were very like each other, with the same slightly drooping nose, the same full lips lying softly together, the same prominent check-bones and black, bright eyes. Likest of all were their long slim hands, his no more masculine than hers . . ." Yet, their physical resemblance is just one aspect of their similarity.
Perhaps more important is the ennui they both share, made worse by the luxury that surrounds them ('Dinner clothes in the afternoon!' Sieglinde said, making a face. It isn't even human!'). Siegmund and Sieglinde suffer the woes of wealthy children: they have everything, yet that having everything become hated because it reminds them of their own emptiness -- that they have yet to achieve on their own. Trying something, like Siegmund's painting, can even be worse than doing nothing. Because trying and failing only confirms the dread that one doesn't deserve what one has.
It's no wonder the twins' inner fear and insecurity manifests as resentment, the desire for revenge, and attraction to one's mirror image. Resentment and revenge are projections of inner hatred, and attraction to one's double perhaps provides a desperate hope that each is not so bad since another is similar. And who best to understand one's inner turmoil but another who is virtually the same?
It is also not surprising the twins consummate their attraction after the opera. After all, what's more dramatic, heroic, and conducive to the surrendering of one's passion than Wagnarian opera? In thunder and storm anything goes, and perhaps all is forgiven. I'm surprised they didn't go at it right there in the opera box. But, such an atmosphere surely gave artistic backdrop to each's depressive self-loathing. In that arena, each could cease being themself and become heroic. How easy it must have been to ride that feeling all the way to the bedroom. And, illicit passion now gives each meaning. An affair is so much more than an affair; it's drama in which one is the central figure, just like the opera. Because of the resentment each had for Beckerath, they now too have a perfect foil, a villain in whom they can portray to each other all the vile characteristics Hunding possesses. In it's own sick way it all makes sense.
I wonder then, does each of us carry a little of that in the person we carry the torch for? Are we attracted to certain persons because they remind us of ourselves? Or who we wish to be? Or who we hope they will help us become? Or who we hope they see us as? Is love really that narcissistic or self-aggrandizing? Anybody else tempted to sleep with their brother or sister after a good opera?
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am 29. Juli 1999
A breathtaking masterpiece of description. You will find yourself wanting to read this one very slowly, in order to savor the magnificent prose and not miss anything. As in all collections, some entries are more interesting than others. My favorites were "Tonio Kroger" for its look inside the soul of artistic people, and "The Blood of the Walsungs" for its bold look at incest, a story in which the protagonists, a sister and brother--twins to boot--find each other irresistible, and spend a good deal of the time caressing and kissing each other; the subject matter of this tale will make many readers uneasy, but it is told beautifully, and Mann captures, in mere words, all the physical charms of the ardent brother and sister. The other stories were secondary in merit, including "Death in Venice," which was largely uninteresting, covering an authour who, approaching death, gets smitten by a Polish boy in that canal city. Still, for anyone interested in the craft of writing, this book is a must. Enjoy.
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am 10. November 1999
"A Death In Venice" is much more then just the story of a aging author's lust for a young man - it is also the representation of Europe before and after the war. It is a beautifully written novella, that smacks of Joyce. Written from the perspective of the protagonist, it offers an indepth look into the mind of a brilliant man who finally disrobes himself of his rationality and dignity, and succumbs to passion and lust. It is a tale of morality, and leaves many questions unanswered. Does Tadzio exist? Was it all real? Who knows?
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am 11. Dezember 1999
In "Death in Venice," Mann crafts an exquisite portrait of "man as artist." Through the character of Aschenbach, Mann explores the artist's role in the public realm as well as his need for fulfillment in his private life. Using the character of Tadzio as a symbol of true artistic beauty, Mann weaves a love story that is at once both destructive and redemptive. This novella is painfully beautiful and hauntingly memorable -- a staggering accomplishment.
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