Showing 1 - 7 of 7 annotations associated with Mann, Thomas
- Aull, Felice
This great literate novel is the tale of Hans Castorp, the "delicate child of life" whom we first meet at age 23, ambivalently embarking on a career as a ship-building engineer in his home city of Hamburg, Germany. Before beginning his professional work, however, he journeys on what is intended to be a vacation and a pro forma visit to see his tubercular cousin, Joachim Ziemssen, at a sanatorium in the mountain town of Davos, Switzerland. Yet as the train pursues its course through the alpine scenery, Hans and the reader become aware that this is no ordinary journey. The impressionable Hans is transported away from the life and obligations he has known, to the rarefied mountain environment and insular community of the sanatorium.
At first uneasy, he soon becomes fascinated with and drawn to the routine established for the "consumptives" and to the social scene which flourishes there. Ordinary life seems increasingly unreal to him; his perceptions are heightened and he becomes aware of his physical, spiritual, and emotional vulnerability, as well as of his own sexuality. He is greatly attracted to one of the patients, a married woman of Slavic background, Madame Clavdia Chauchat. She reminds him of a schoolboy to whom he had been strangely drawn as a child. The turmoil brought on by this romantic obsession seems even to be reflected in his physical state, which is unstable and feverish.
As his intended stay of three weeks nears its close, the director of the sanatorium advises Hans to stay on to recuperate from a heavy cold, which appears to reveal an underlying case of tuberculosis. Hans is almost relieved at this news, for it provides him with a reason for remaining near Madame Chauchat as well as the opportunity to continue intriguing, profound discussions and cogitation about illness, life, time, death, religion and world view initiated by another patient, Herr Settembrini.
Settembrini is an Italian man of letters and humanist who believes that reason and the intellect must and will prevail, in daily life as well as in world affairs. He is contemptuous of the foolish flirtations and empty talk in which most of the sanatorium inhabitants indulge, and warns Hans repeatedly of the dangers inherent in cutting off all ties to real life and responsibility.
Nevertheless, Hans remains at the sanatorium for seven years, freeing himself from the constraints and conventions of life "in the flatlands" and instead engaging in a prolonged "questioning of the universe." This questioning includes a critical flirtation with death, stunningly described in the chapter, "Snow." Hans does not return home until the outbreak of World War I, in which he fights and survives.
- Moore, Pamela
Hans Castorp makes a visit to the International Sanitarium Berghof in the Swiss Alps to rest and visit his cousin, Joachim Ziemssen. There he meets other patients from around Europe, all with different opinions about life and its meaning. Before his three week visit is up, Hans develops tuberculosis and ends up staying seven years. He leaves only when the Sanitarium gets news of the assassination of the Archduke that will begin World War One.
The full title of this novel is "Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn as Told by a Friend." Mann wrote it during the latter part of World War II when he was living in exile in the United States. The Faust character in this story is a German composer named Adrian Leverkühn (1885-1940), whose biography is recounted by his childhood friend, a schoolmaster named Serenus Zeitblom. Zeitblom presents the tale in his own voice--in essence, the novel is an extended reflection on the composer’s life (the past) set into the context of the deteriorating military situation in Germany (the present) as he is writing; i.e. the same period that Mann is actually writing the novel.
Adrian Leverkühn starts out as a student of theology, but succumbs to his passion for musical composition. His early pieces, though technically skillful, lack energy and imagination. However, all this changes when the young man experiences himself as having made a pact with the devil. In a confession written years later, Adrian recounts that he "voluntarily" contracted syphilis in an encounter with a prostitute, an episode that he believed was emblematic of this Faustian bargain.
In the confession he recreates his dialog with Satan, who promises the composer an artistic breakthrough, if he agrees to forego human love. As a result of the pact, Leverkühn sets off on a brilliant 24-year career, becoming the greatest German composer of his time. Throughout the novel Serenus intersperses technical details of Leverkühn’s many compositions, culminating with his masterwork, an oratorio called "The Lamentation of Doctor Faustus."
Adrian Leverkühn had been a self-centered youth who failed to reciprocate the friendship and devotion that others, especially Serenus, had lavished upon him. As an adult he leads an austere, solitary, monk-like life. Yet, while he lives only for his music, he also yearns for love. His personal life consists of a series of aborted relationships. Leverkühn becomes attracted to a female acquaintance and asks a friend to court her for him, only to learn that she has fallen in love with the friend.
Toward the end of his career, Adrian’s 5-year-old nephew comes to live with him in the country. The nephew ignites in him another spark of love, only to be snuffed out when the boy suddenly dies of meningitis. Finally, just as he is in the process of "unveiling" his great composition to a select group of friends, Leverkühn experiences a "stroke" and lapses into a coma from which he recovers physically, but not mentally. He survives for another decade in a demented, childlike state, and cared for by his mother.
The larger theme of this somber work relates to the decline of German culture during the decades before the onset of the Nazi era. Mann explores the collapse of traditional humanism and its replacement by a mixture of sophisticated nihilism and barbaric primitivism. In "The Story of a Novel" (1949),
Mann wrote that "Dr. Faustus" was about "the flight from the difficulties of a cultural crisis into the pact with the devil; the craving of a proud mind, threatened by sterility, for an unblocking of inhibitions at any cost; and the parallel between pernicious euphoria ending in collapse with the nationalistic frenzy of Fascism." In Zeitblum’s narrative comments, Mann subtly relates the composer’s personal tragedy to Germany’s destruction in the war. Mann also claimed a "secret identity" between himself, Leverkühn, and Zeitblom.
Felix Krull begins his "confessions" at the beginning, with his family background and infancy. He comes from an upper class family in the Rhine Valley; his father owned a small manufacturing concern; he has an older sister named Olympia. Felix writes about his childhood love of fantasy, as exemplified by his love of dressing-up in costumes at home and his passion for the theater. He detested school, however, because it was so unremittingly boring.
Felix first practiced the art of deception by forging his father's penmanship on notes excusing him from school because of sickness. Later, he graduated to "performing" the illness by being able to fool his mother with imaginary symptoms. In fact, he was so good at "performing" that he was actually able to create the symptoms in himself (e.g. nausea and vomiting), and in so doing, "I had improved upon nature, realized a dream . . . " When the doctor arrived to examine Felix, the doctor initially assumed that it was a phony case (just being "school-sick"), but Felix was able to convince the doctor as well, or at least force enough doubt that he went along with the ruse.
Among the adolescent episodes that Felix confesses is his first theft (of chocolates from a sweet shop) and his first sexual experience (with a much older housemaid). He cites the latter event in the context of explaining how his "great joy" over sensual experience is so much greater than that of the common person.
Felix Krull's confessions end with the family's bankruptcy and loss of their sparkling wine factory, and his father's suicide some months later: "I stood beside the earthly husk of my progenitor, now growing cold, with my hand over my eyes, and paid him the abundant tribute of my tears."
- Willms, Janice
Gustave Aschenbach, renowned German scholar and historian, reaches a crisis in his previously austere and celibate life. Exhausted from the pressures and the seemingly sterile quality of his aesthetic endeavors, he seeks respite and pleasure. Through a series of misadventures, he eventually arrives in the summer city of Venice, a city he knows and has always longed to visit again.
The reader observes the progressive moral alteration in the rigidly self-controlled man as he succumbs to his long repressed desire to experience the types of passion that art, rather than reason, allows. His transformation extends to the worship of a beautiful young boy--Aschenbach's vision of a doomed Greek god.
As Aschenbach becomes progressively obsessed with his longing, he assumes the role of a lover gone amok. Venice is under siege by a plague, and given the chance to escape--and to warn his object's Polish family of his knowledge about the dangers facing them all--he chooses to take the ultimate risk of death rather than give up his passionate obsession.
The story takes place in the winter at Einfried, a sanatorium directed by Dr. Leander, a physician "whom science has cooled and hardened and filled with silent, forbearing pessimism." A young married woman (Frau Kloterjahn) arrives as a patient. Her husband denies the seriousness of her illness by calling it merely "a problem of the trachea." In reality, Frau Kloterjahn, who had recently given birth to a healthy son, is dying of consumption.
A not-so-sick novelist (Detlev Spinell) also lives in the sanatorium, and he quickly develops a romantic obsession with the new patient. One day most of the residents go for a sleigh ride, but Spinell and Frau Kloterjahn remain indoors. He cajoles her to play the piano for him, which has been forbidden. Picking up a score from "Tristan und Isolde," Frau Kloterjahn plays beautifully until exhausted. When her death becomes imminent, Herr Kloterjahn returns to her bedside. At this point Spinell writes Kloterjahn an excoriating letter, saying (in essence) that the man is an insensitive slob who doesn't understand his own wife.
- Aull, Felice
The setting is Germany in the late 1920s. Rosalie, the central character, is a "sociable," cheerful 50 year old widow who lives with her adult unmarried daughter and her adolescent son. Her manner is youthful but "her health had been affected by certain critical organic phenomena of her time of life." Rosalie is keenly aware of all that menopause implies: the loss of sexual allure and of a (biologic) purpose in life. She feels "superannuated."
Along comes a young man, well-built, who is the American-born tutor for her son. She is overwhelmed by physical attraction for him, becoming infatuated, much to the disapproval of her repressed, cerebral daughter. She feels young and attractive once more, believing that her heightened state of sensuality has resulted in the resumption of what appears to be menstrual bleeding.
Planning to declare her love to the tutor, Rosalie arranges a family excursion to the Rhine castle where the black swans swim. In the decaying alcoves of the castle, she does so; the pair will rendezvous that night. The rendezvous never takes place; Rosalie has hemorrhaged. She is found to have a large, metastatic uterine tumor.