23 March 2006

Death in Venice, by Thomas Mann

This is an incredible novella. I've been really interested in the intellectual interactions of Thomas Mann and Joseph Conrad lately, and this book would be a great starting point for exploring the resonances between them. Aschenbach's arrival by boat into decadent, sultry Venice, is clearly indebted to Heart of Darkness. I've been interested in whether one can speak of a Polish Conrad, and this text also kind of begs the question. Somebody must have written on Tadzio as the constructed Polish Other and explored the curious Orientalism of what is, after all, a neighboring country - I must find this work. I wonder if it has anything to do with Mann's obsession with Conrad, actually.

Anyways, it's a great text. The prose is dense and delicious, and there's this incredible lingering anxiety and dissipation, an obsession with a dwindling aristocracy and what lies beneath the surface. The contrast between the sweet, sickly scent of the air in Venice's dark corners and the pure, Grecian beauty of Tadzio is brilliantly executed, and the occasional philosophial reflections on Eros, stemming largely from Phaedrus, are thrilling.

Marvelous. Just marvelous.

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