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4.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Approach to Art as Life vs. Life as Art, Dec 2 2003
By 
Grady Harp (Los Angeles, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Thomas Mann's novella "Death in Venice" written in 1911 has proven to be one of the more enduring, widely read stories in all of 20th Century literature. Originally published by Mann in a selection of short stories, the tale is one of the clash of the Apollonian and Dionysian conflict in the guise of one Gustav von Aschenbach, dropping his wholly cerebral life, to fall in love with a young Polish lad (Tadzio, who represents earthly Dionysian beauty at the stage of puberty) in Venice, Italy when the threat of cholera threatened the life of the city. The story has captured the imagination of philosophers, readers, historians, thinkers concerned with gender studies - and musicians and filmmakers!
The story has been published in many languages, served as the subject for Luchino Visconti's hauntingly beautiful film (1971) by the same name, and resulted in Benjamin Britten's last opera (1973) also with the name "Death in Venice" in tact. Gender studies writers claim this novella to be one of the most successful stories of same sex love, and other famous writers took the lead from Mann in putting into novel form the 'unspeakable subject'. Gilbert Adair, a successful British writer ("Love and Death on Long Island" is a stunning book and was made into a fine film with the brilliant portrayal by John Hurt of the Thomas Mann-inspired character) has treated us with a significant bit of investigation and shows in well written prose and illustrated by many photographs that the story of "Death in Venice" is actually Mann's reporting on an incident that really did happen: Mann was in Venice in 1911, encountered a rich young Polish boy (one Wladyslaw Moes) while staying on the Lido, met all the same characters he later depicted, escaped the cholera epidemic that threatened Venice, felt the desire for the beautiful lad, but in Mann's case he did not die on the beach watching his desired young dream lad wandering away into the sea waves.
Adair then follows the life of the real 'Tadzio' through his wealthy years in Poland, his trials during the time between WWI and WWII, his loss of all of his wealth in the post war period including his incarceration in a POW camp, his marriage and subsequent loss of his son, his response to seeing himself depicted in Visconti's movie version of Mann's novella, and his subsequent death in 1986. This is a fine bit of history, well presented with accompanying photographs of "Tadzio", his friends, his family, and his disappearance into obscurity while his impetus for Thomas Mann's novella lives on. Adair also examines the Visconti film and the Britten opera and manages to tie a century's worth of information into a short, eminently readable book. This is a must read for everyone who has fallen in love with this famous story.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Approach to Art is Life vs. Life is Art, Dec 1 2003
By 
Grady Harp (Los Angeles, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Thomas Mann's novella "Death in Venice" written in 1911 has proven to be one of the more enduring, widely read stories in all of 20th Century literature. Originally published by Mann in a selection of short stories, the tale is one of the clash of the Apollonian and Dionysian conflict in the guise of one Gustav von Aschenbach, dropping his wholly cerebral life, to fall in love with a young Polish lad (Tadzio, who represents earthly Dionysian beauty at the stage of puberty) in Venice, Italy when the threat of cholera threatened the life of the city. The story has captured the imagination of philosophers, readers, historians, thinkers concerned with gender studies - and musicians and filmmakers!
The story has been published in many languages, served as the subject for Luchino Visconti's hauntingly beautiful film (1971)by the same name, and resulted in Benjamin Britten's last opera (1973) also with the name "Death in Venice" in tact. Gender studies writers claim this novella to be one of the most successful stories of same sex love, and other famous writers took the lead from Mann in putting into novel form the 'unspeakable subject'. Gilbert Adair, a successful British writer ("Love and Death on Long Island" is a stunning book and was made into a fine film with the brilliant portrayal by John Hurt of the Thomas Mann-inspired character) has treated us with a significant bit of investigation and shows in well written prose and illustrated by many photographs that the story of "Death in Venice" is actually Mann's reporting on an incident that really did happen: Mann was in Venice in 1911, encountered a rich young Polish boy (one Wladyslaw Moes) while staying on the Lido, met all the same characters he later depicted, escaped the cholera epidemic that threatened Venice, felt the desire for the beautiful lad, but in Mann's case he did not die on the beach watching his desired young dream lad wandering away into the sea waves.
Adair then follows the life of the real 'Tadzio' through his wealthy years in Poland, his trials during the time between WWI and WWII, his loss of all of his wealth in the post war period icluding his incarceration in a POW camp, his marriage and subsequent loss of his son, his response to seeing himself depicted in Visconti's movie version of Mann's novella, and his subsequent death in 1986. This is a fine bit of history, well presented with accompanying photographs of "Tadzio", his friends, his family, and his disappearance into obscurity while his impetus for Thomas Mann's novella lives on. Adair also examines the Visconti film and the Britten opera and manages to tie a century's worth of information into a short, eminently readable book. This is a must read for everyone who has fallen in love with this famous story.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A surprisingly substantial read, May 7 2002
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This is a lovely little book (barely 100 pages, with pictures) by Gilbert Adair, the author of "Love and Death on Long Island," which traces the life story of the Polish boy, Wladyslaw Moes, who served as the muse for Thomas Mann's novella, "Death in Venice." Moes' story, which follows his fortunes through two wars and his death in the 1980s, is fascinating, and along the way Adair finds time to meditate on Visconti's 1970s film of the book, which, when he saw it, first alerted Moes to the fact that he had been the inspiration for Tadzio, as well as on Visconti's own identification with Aschenbach. Adair further speculates on the novel's position as the top gay classic of all time. I especially liked Adair's observation that another Visconti masterpiece, the woefully neglected "Conversation Piece," represents an updating of the Mann story to post-World War II Italy, with Burt Lancaster in the Aschenbach/Visconti role and Helmut Berger as Tadzio/himself. Readers will note that Adair's own "Love and Death" is yet another updating of the same tale. Taken ounce for ounce, a very substantial read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Informative!, May 22 2002
By 
DONALD G. FOX "Santee Sioux" (Minneapolis, MN USA) - See all my reviews
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This is fine writing. I was especially struck by the opening and closing pages in which Mr. Adair looks at Mann's story and Viconti's film and contextualizes them within the world of the real Tadzio. Just what is it that makes "Death in Venice" so remarkable? What are those themes that shake the public and mesmerize gay (and straight) men? Mr. Adair is an adept writer and thinker. Take the time to read this small tome. You will be glad you did.
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Short Lives Real Tadzio
Short Lives Real Tadzio by Gilbert Adair (Paperback - Dec 27 2001)
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