Monday, November 5, 2007

Thomas Mann makes me laugh

Before returning books to the library I have to write down some quotes that made me giggle. (Both are from Thomas Mann’s “Tristan”)

“Ah, what activity! How she (Fraulein von Osterloh) plies, now here, now there, now upstairs, now down, from one end of the building to the other! She is queen in kitchen and storerooms, she mounts the shelves of the linen-presses, she marshals the domestic staff; … she keeps house diligently, furiously; and her exceeding capacity conceals a constant reproach to the world of men, to no one of whom has it yet occurred to lead her to the altar.”

And, about Fraulein von Osterloh again: “She had read it (a novel) once, in a spare quarter-hour, and found it ‘very cultured’- which was her circumlocution of inhumanly boresome”.

Who knew, that Thomas Mann can be funny? I had hard time reading Mann’s works in university and I still have hard time reading them now. For me his style is like an iron gates which craftsmanship, intricate details you admire but they also prevent you from entering a garden hidden behind and fully revel in its beauty (ha, ha and apparently his style is contagious).

I picked up his book because of the “Death in Venice” or, being more precise, because I wanted to watch Visconti’s version of “Death in Venice”, so it seemed only logical to reread the original.

The central theme – an old man infatuation with a young boy, obsession born out of pure admiration of beauty, passion destroying the soul and resulting in death - is utterly fascinating. The most interesting is that the passion continues to swell despite lack of interaction between Gustav von Aschenbach and Tadzio; there are only chance meetings and glances there. I wonder if the novel would have been published now with political correctness and all. At the beginning of the century this topic seemed to be common. Épater la bourgeoisie, indeed.

1 comment:

Kenna Alise said...

Hello! I stumbled across this post while I was searching for a bit about Fraulein von Osterloh for a rather length paper I'm writing for my German literature class right now. I was pretty struck by the occasional humor in Tristan as well. The bit about Frau Spatz during the piano climax scene gets me every time.
"Meanwhile, Frau Spatz's boredom had reached the degree at which it distorts the human face, driving the eyes out of the head and making the feature cadaverous and terrifying."
I literally laugh out loud every single time.

-Kenna Alise