I’ve read some damning stuff about Thomas Mann (particularly this LRB piece by Colm Tóibín), so it was with interest that I picked up his letters this weekend. Granted, they’re selected, and, granted, Thomas Mann had a vested interest in crafting his public image, but they really show a very good side of him. He comes across as extremely modest for a man of his accomplishments (there’s the one where he goes on at length in an effort to dispel rumors of his encyclopedic knowledge engendered by his, well, encyclopedic novels), and he sounds very reasonable and . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Just to get a little closure on this huge book, I wanted to take a minute and talk about how the whole thing struck me. Scott, I hope to hear your thoughts on the matter, as well.
First of all, the "Cultural Context" post was helpful, even if I read it after finishing Mann's novel. Mainly it illuminated what Mann was doing with the social aspect of his book, an aspect that I felt slightly let down by once I got into it. By opening Buddenbrooks with the lavish dinner scene, introducing all the leitmotifs with color . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Now that we've gotten acquainted with Buddenbrooks' major characters and their arcs, I thought it would be good to pull back a little bit and look at some of the social and historical forces that Buddenbrooks is playing out against.
The Buddenbrooks themselves are something of a bridge between two major components of society that co-existed in Austria-Hungary and the Germanic lands during the 19th century. On the one hand was the landed aristocracy, conservative and still ridiculously rich but in decline as the cities gained prominence; on the other hand was the business class, liberal and on . . . continue reading, and add your comments
I've been reading and enjoying Ted Striphas's The Late Age of Print, and I intend to write more about it soon. For now, though, I'd like to pull this Heidegger quote that Striphas mentions while discussing language's progression from the mouth to the pen to the typewriter to the computer to the ________.
Mechanical writing deprives the hand of its rank in the realm of the written word and degrades the word to a means of communication. In addition, mechanical writing provides this "advantage," that is conceals the handwriting and thereby the character. The typewriter makes everyone look the . . . continue reading, and add your comments
This is a rich, rich subject that we should return to again, but I just wanted to respond briefly to John's remarks re: Hanno, Thomas Mann, and classical music. John writes:
Similarly, after reading Mann's beautiful rendering of Hanno's musical experiences in Part 8, I'm interested to learn more about the role of music in the writer's life. Scott, having enjoyed Doctor Faustus so much, perhaps you've read about Mann's musical background. Was he a musician himself, or was his understanding more scholarly? He seems to grasp the unspeakable aspects of musical communication with enough depth that I . . . continue reading, and add your comments
One of the most intriguing things I've learned while reading (and reading about) Buddenbrooks is that it was supposedly Faulkner's favorite novel. (This is an unattributed statement in the book's Wikipedia entry, yes, although I've encountered the sentiment elsewhere.)
Granted, Lowe-Porter's translation of Buddenbrooks didn't appear until 1924, so I can't say if Faulkner read it before or during his work on The Sound and the Fury, but I'm willing to believe that's the case based on some similarities in themes and characterizations. In particular, the relationship between Tony and Tom in Mann's novel seems like an influence on . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Since we're all currently disgusted with smooth-talking bankers, bad loans, and the whole ethic of overlooking certain facts that we'd rather not know about, I thought it would be good to discuss how a very important bad loan in Buddenbrooks very closely mirrors our own subprime situation.
First a little stage-setting: you'll remember that Tony Buddenbrook, in a sudden burst of family loyalty, has decided to go ahead and marry the rather distasteful Herr Grünlich. Of course, she isn't only doing this for family: as the wife of a rich businessman, Tony will be able to live quite . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Sacha pulls a great quote in his recent post on Buddenbrooks. I agree with Sacha that it's a worthwhile quote for what it shows about the evolution of Tom Buddenbrook from a man who once bought in to the idea of a rational, accessible world to a man who approaches life with a philosophy that is nearly existential.
But there's another reason I like this quote. It tells us about Mann, the author. For multiple reasons, Buddenbrooks is commonly regarded as different from Mann's later works, which are not only different stylistically but also have a much more . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Scott asked a valuable question: Why should we care about these people?
He cited the passage on p. 154 regarding Tony's experience with the family history, which I agree is Mann's first explicit answer to the issue. We care because this family is convinced of its own standing and importance, and not in a self-important or ironic way. Scott's right that Tony's experience in this scene is touching and illuminating, for her and for us.
And this got me thinking about Buddenbrooks' structure. I believe Mann makes us care because, in the first third of the novel, . . . continue reading, and add your comments
I just wanted to briefly jump into the fray regarding the Buddenbrooks translation discussion. Sacha and John both seem to conclude that Mann in translation is necessarily diminished Mann:
Sacha: "As smoothly as Woods handles the speech of, say, Herr Permaneder, and as much as I understand that his character is supposed to be a parody of Bavarian culture, I wonder what nuances my lack of access to the German is denying me. . . . Questions like the ones my experience with Buddenbrooks are making me ask prompt the recognition that even the best translation loses something." . . . continue reading, and add your comments