Monday, 18 April 2011

Thomas Mann's 'Death in Venice' - a very brief summary

In his novella 'Death in Venice' Thomas Mann portrays the final days of his protagonist Gustav von Aschenbach, a revered German novelist, who has reached the autumn of his life. Aschenbach, a widower, is described as a paragon of self - discipline, who has dedicated a lifetime to his craft and denied himself any opportunity for self - indulgence.

When Aschenbach is plagued by a lack of artistic inspiration (or more aptly put: an onslaught of writer's block), he decides to take a holiday, which, as he hopes, might remedy the situation. Instead of spending the summer in his summer house, Aschenbach settles on the Grand Hotel des Bains, located on Venice's Lido Island.

Shortly after his arrival in the hotel, he notices Tadzio, a fourteen - year - old Polish boy, who is staying in the hotel together with his mother, his sisters and their governess. From the moment Aschenbach sets eyes on Tadzio he is mesmerized by the boy.

Initially, Aschenbach admires Tadzio's aesthetic beauty, but soon his interest spirals out of control. Aschenbach either follows him around or observes him for hours whilst Tadzio is playing on the beach with other children. Aschenbach's obsession intensifies against the backdrop of a cholera outbreak in the city, which both  the Venetian authorities and those economically dependent on the tourist trade try to cover up. However, even when Aschenbach receives confirmation that the rumours in respect of the cholera outbreak are true, he still does not leave the City.

Eventually, Aschenbach himself starts feeling unwell. When emerging from his room to have breakfast one morning, he finds the Polish family in the midst of preparations for their departure. Seeking out Tadzio, Aschenbach makes for the beach and it is here that he dies in his chair whilst observing Tadzio one final time.


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