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Thursday, May 08, 2014

Death in Venice (1912) by Thomas Mann


Book Review
Death in Venice (1912)
 by Thomas Mann
in Death and Venice and Seven Other Stories
Vintage edition paperback 1989
Translated by H.T. Lowe-Porter

  Thomas Mann was best known for his major novels: Buddenbrooks (1901) and The Magic Mountain (1924) but he also wrote a grip of Novellas and short stories.  At 71 pages, "they" call Death in Venice a Novella but I would say short-story.  It details the erotic obsession of an older man with a young boy, set against the onset of the Influenza crisis in Venice.

  It's an evocative setting, and Mann is more or less dealing in a forthright fashion with a highly taboo kind of sexual attraction.  There is nothing R-rated in here- it was published in 1914, but the mood anticipates the more frankly sexual (and more disturbing) work of Nabokov a half century later.  According to scholars, Death in Venice is based on an actual experience Mann had a Venetian hotel.  As it turns out, Mann was bisexual, as is readily apparent to anyone who reads this story (though not clear at all if you read Buddenbrooks or The Magic Mountain.

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