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Death in Venice Hardcover – May 20 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 142 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Canada / Fiction (May 20 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060576057
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060576059
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 13.9 x 1.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,010,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

German essayist, cultural critic, and novelist, Thomas Mann was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1929. Among his most famous works are Buddenbrooks, published when he was just twenty-six, The Magic Mountain, and Doctor Faustus.


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First Sentence
Gustav Aschenbach or von Aschenbach, as he had officially been known since his fiftieth birthday, set out alone from his resident in Munich' Prinzregentenstrasse on a spring afternoon in 19..-a year that for months had shown so ominous a countenance to our continent-with the intention of taking an extended walk. Read the first page
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Format: Hardcover
Thomas Mann is one of the more gifted writers of the 20th century. Read this (a "cleaned" version and others in college and admired him. Magic Mountain is one of the classics of literature.
However, recent analysis and information helps us understand that he struggled with what today we diagnosis as pedophilia.
The story is not about homosexuality per se, but is about the attraction of an older man for a prepubescent boy. Based on Mann's own attraction to a 10 year old, Wladyslaw Moes. This is supported by his journals and his wife's writtings. He changed the age in the story to 14 to lessen the social condemnation of the book.
Pedophilia does horrible things to the victims. The damage to the psyche of the victims is enourmous. Many in the field think that recovery is often impossible. Children must be protected until they are able to decide and protect themselves. Part of that protection comes from not glorifing a destructive instinct under the cover of artistic expression.
Despite his great talent, Mann must be understood for what he was. This book should be judged not just on its writing but on its theme, which by all standards is illegal.
It is difficult to give a Nobel Prize winner one star, but it is what this book deserves. Should not be banned but should be avoided.
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Format: Hardcover
I don't have much more to add to Grady Harp's effusive praise, except to say that I pretty much agree with his main points. I first read the classic H.T. Lowe Porter translation in college and liked it then . . . anything for a thorough expose of what it means--or necessarily used to mean--to be gay and aging. Even Lowe Porter's fusty Edwardian strains, imparting dignity and Olympian tragedy to the drama, seemed apt at the time for a life--in the middle of another pestilence--that seemed to offer no happy ending.
But since then we've had Will and Grace and countless gay characters, mostly minor, in films and on TV--and one of the great things is that it's okay to laugh about it all. Even at what we in the community used to call tragic and sometimes in our bitchier moments still do. This translation invites us to smile, and even occasionally howl. By giving Aschenbach an obsession with the Greek gods (toward the end he uses the words god and godlike about a dozen times in two pages), Mann not only shows us what was required at the time as a good alibi or cover for homosexual tendencies (not even "identities")--"classical culture" and "noble classicism" and so on: everything that involved nude boys and swimming hole frolics and attention served to youth and beauty in young beauties--but also gave us in the future (inadvertantly, I don't know, since I don't read German) the keys to understanding a period in which so-called bourgeois culture needed its literature and high art to justify the ancients' curious sexual habits. An almost neurasthenic obsession with youth and health and beauty being an ironic side feature of cultured life.
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Format: Hardcover
For those legions of readers who consider Thomas Mann's DEATH IN VENICE one of the pinnacles of 20th Century literature, welcome to the feast! Michael Henry Heim has restudied and again translated this brief but poignant novella with an English version more in tune with Mann's novella and certainly, finally free from all the societal homophobic restrictions that have shrouded previous translations. This is the tale of a writer - Gustav von Aschenbach - in his fifties who feels the need for exotic travels to break his writer's block, and after many aborted attempts to find the right place, comes to Venice and not only falls under its spell but also finds his sublimated desires for pure beauty as focused on young men awakened in his encounter with the young Polish boy Tadzio. This story has been translated into other languages, transformed into film by Luchino Visconti and made into the last opera of Sir Benjamin Britten. But though the simple story has captivated our minds for many years, it has never been presented in so eloquent a fashion as in this Heim translation. To wit: "On a personal level, too, art is life intensified: it delights more deeply, consumes more rapidly; it engraves the traces of imaginary and intellectual adventure on the countenance of its servant and in the long run, for all the monastic calm of his external existence, leads to self-indulgence, over refinement, lethargy, and a restless curiosity that a lifetime of wild passions and pleasures could scarcely engender." When he first encounters Tadzio "...he was infused with a paternal affection, the attraction that one who begets beauty by means of self-sacrifice [a writer] feels for one who is inherently beautiful." And "Was it not common knowledge that the sun diverts our attention from the intellectual to the sensual?Read more ›
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By gary on Sept. 29 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Classic and enthralling
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 20 reviews
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
A New Translation: DEATH IN VENICE more radiant than ever! June 19 2004
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
For those legions of readers who consider Thomas Mann's DEATH IN VENICE one of the pinnacles of 20th Century literature, welcome to the feast! Michael Henry Heim has restudied and again translated this brief but poignant novella with an English version more in tune with Mann's novella and certainly, finally free from all the societal homophobic restrictions that have shrouded previous translations. This is the tale of a writer - Gustav von Aschenbach - in his fifties who feels the need for exotic travels to break his writer's block, and after many aborted attempts to find the right place, comes to Venice and not only falls under its spell but also finds his sublimated desires for pure beauty as focused on young men awakened in his encounter with the young Polish boy Tadzio. This story has been translated into other languages, transformed into film by Luchino Visconti and made into the last opera of Sir Benjamin Britten. But though the simple story has captivated our minds for many years, it has never been presented in so eloquent a fashion as in this Heim translation. To wit: "On a personal level, too, art is life intensified: it delights more deeply, consumes more rapidly; it engraves the traces of imaginary and intellectual adventure on the countenance of its servant and in the long run, for all the monastic calm of his external existence, leads to self-indulgence, over refinement, lethargy, and a restless curiosity that a lifetime of wild passions and pleasures could scarcely engender." When he first encounters Tadzio "...he was infused with a paternal affection, the attraction that one who begets beauty by means of self-sacrifice [a writer] feels for one who is inherently beautiful." And "Was it not common knowledge that the sun diverts our attention from the intellectual to the sensual? It benumbs and bewitches both reason and memory such that the soul in its elation quite forgets its true nature and clings with rapt delight to the fairest of sun-drenched objects, nay, only with the aid of the corporeal can it ascend to more lofty considerations."
Once von Aschenbach accepts the fact that he is in love with the idea of Tadzio he sets about to quash rumors of the threat that cholera is invading Venice to keep his Polish lad from leaving the city (and von Aschenbach) with his family. "Thus the addled traveler could no longer think or care about anything but pursuing unrelentingly the object that had so inflamed him, dreaming of him in his absence, and, as is the lover's wont, speaking tender words to his mere shadow. Loneliness, the foreign environment, and the joy of a belated and profound exhilaration prompted him, persuaded him to indulge without shame or remorse in the most distasteful behavior, as when returning from Venice [to the Lido] late one evening he had paused at the beautiful boy's door on the second floor of the hotel and pressed his forehead against the hinge in drunken rapture, unable to tear himself away even at the risk of being discovered and caught."
Has Heim 'changed' Mann's story in to a more titillating one? No, indeed not! But he has rescued it from the mere Apollonian/Dionysian rhetoric with which other translations have cloaked the sensual aspects of the story. Here von Aschenbach becomes a fully three-dimensional character, one whose life up to the entry into Venice is understood and appreciated as a writer of brilliance, and one whose epiphany of the Eros submerged in this intellectual psyche blossoms in the most credible, tender way that far from being transformed into a 'pedophile', he is instead in that wondrous plane where awakened emotions of love and longing dwell.
Michael Cunningham has written a beautiful introduction to this new translation and, as we have come to expect from this contemporary gifted man of letters, his words are warm and befitting his admiration for this work by Thomas Mann. This is a book to be read and read again, and should you have other versions of DEATH IN VENICE in your library, that is all the more reason to pleasure your mind with the genius of this translation. Highly recommended!
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
A 21st Century Facelift For a Classic (Ink Fresh But Dried) June 24 2004
By michael carroll - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I don't have much more to add to Grady Harp's effusive praise, except to say that I pretty much agree with his main points. I first read the classic H.T. Lowe Porter translation in college and liked it then . . . anything for a thorough expose of what it means--or necessarily used to mean--to be gay and aging. Even Lowe Porter's fusty Edwardian strains, imparting dignity and Olympian tragedy to the drama, seemed apt at the time for a life--in the middle of another pestilence--that seemed to offer no happy ending.
But since then we've had Will and Grace and countless gay characters, mostly minor, in films and on TV--and one of the great things is that it's okay to laugh about it all. Even at what we in the community used to call tragic and sometimes in our bitchier moments still do. This translation invites us to smile, and even occasionally howl. By giving Aschenbach an obsession with the Greek gods (toward the end he uses the words god and godlike about a dozen times in two pages), Mann not only shows us what was required at the time as a good alibi or cover for homosexual tendencies (not even "identities")--"classical culture" and "noble classicism" and so on: everything that involved nude boys and swimming hole frolics and attention served to youth and beauty in young beauties--but also gave us in the future (inadvertantly, I don't know, since I don't read German) the keys to understanding a period in which so-called bourgeois culture needed its literature and high art to justify the ancients' curious sexual habits. An almost neurasthenic obsession with youth and health and beauty being an ironic side feature of cultured life.
The result for Mann, in one instance, is a wonderfully dry scene in which the old writer goes to the barber and frowns at his "pinched face" in the mirror, thereby unleashing a torrent of rationales from the barber for working his own art on the aging artist: dye job, little curl here and there, rouge. It's an astoundingly paced and worded moment, and what it leads up to is more dramatic and complex than I remembered in the most famous version. It's not so much about loneliness and a necessarily tragic life, it turns out in this makeover, as about the way we hide ourselves, cloak ourselves, in the identities the world wants to see. That's the tragedy Mann's getting at. Now the yellowing lenses of post-Victorianism have been lifted to reveal this more clearly.
So, three cheers for Michael Henry Heim--and five stars!
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
transcendant translation Nov. 29 2005
By Konrad Baumeister - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A writer who undertakes to translate a complicated and nuanced work by an acknowledged literary master puts himself into an unenviable position, especially should the work have already been previously translated by another and be considered definitive. And yet Heim's update on the classic Lowe-Porter translation has made Mann's Aschenbach more fully human, more tragic and less comic, still every bit as pompous and self-justifying, more insidiously real. It's a triumph of the translator's art.

To me, anyhow, Mann's book has always been at least as much about the language, the inner self-talk of Aschenbach, as it has been about the story line or plot. It is fascinating to see how the author enters the mind of a man who has spent his life in rigid self-denial, self-deception really, and slowly - and not without considerable struggle from his ego against it - expands his consciousness. By book's end Aschenbach has not only found himself, he can no longer deny himself, he accepts himself as he is and then of course he dies. The journey he undertakes - not just from serious and constricted Germany to a holiday resort on the Lido in Venice, but from stuffy and self-important man living a lie, a life of 'despites', to allowing himself to be fully conscious of one true emotion and impulse and allowing it, even willing it to take him entirely over, to free him from himself, is the thing.

Well, it's a spellbinding book, and one which rewards close rereading.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Not Lost In Translation Jan. 15 2013
By Andrish Saint-Clare - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is not a review, but just a comment. There are several versions of Death In Venice for sale through Kindle. I have read samples from them all. Michael Henry Heim's translation is the most expensive, but well worth the few extra dollars. Mann's language is of the older, more stilted and long winded variety to our modern sensibilities. This translation compared to the others is more natural, readable and poetic. It retains the complexity without stumbling over the difficulties into what might be a bumbling translation full of odd English. If you really want a smooth natural flow of language, don't bother with the earlier translations.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Translation makes a BIG difference June 17 2014
By Mr.Punch - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Let's get the Lowe-Porter issue out of the way up front: I know she meant well, but she was anything but faithful to Mann's prose style. As dedicated as she was to the Mann corpus and the Herculean task of churning through some quite languid bits, I think she did this particular gem of Mann's a disservice. I'm not going to say that had anything to do with her not quite "getting it," what would I know about that? I will say that her translation made the story seem almost silly and painted the main character Aschenbach as rather pathetic if totally unsympathetic, or just a curiosity that might exist only in the imagination of someone reluctant to confront his own sexuality (I mean the author here, not the character). But it is so much more! It is a devastating tale, and deserves an adroit translator to convey the nuances flowing throughout the text for the reader to tease out and piece together himself. That's the way Mann intended it, as best as we understand it today. Cunningham definitely accomplishes this with great skill. For those looking for newer translations of Mann's other works, I highly recommend the John E. Woods translations. He is clearly unafraid to approach Mann on his own terms, as Cunningham does here. Mrs. Lowe-Porter had a little too much "decorum," or alternately sought to elevate her own prose style by using sometimes stilted and artificial verbiage. In any case, she seems to have been unwilling to go as far as the German text in front of her went, something wonderfully rectified here and in Woods' translations. Even more curious is Mann's tacit approval and praise of L-P's translations, when certainly he must have found it at least as turgid as native English speakers did.


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