Death in Venice
Thomas Mann, Author
If you are thinking about getting into Thomas Mann, but don't know where to start, look no further. Though this novel is small and seemingly simple, it sacrifices nothing in its style and brevity. In fact, I think I actually preferred it to The Magic Mountain, as Death in Venice is more condensed, which made it easier for me to give it my full attention.
The plot is very simple. A man - an author, an artist - travels to Venice for a change of scenery. Once there, he falls in love... with a boy.
For me, the controversial element of a married man falling in love with a pre-teen boy actually faded into the background. I was more appalled at Aschenbach's selfishness in keeping the news of the cholera outbreak to himself. And for what!? A completely self-destructive bid to continue to watch Tadzio while everything went to ruins around them!? These actions are even more reprehensible (and ironic, to boot) considering how disgusted Aschenbach was with the people of Venice for keeping the cholera outbreak a secret for the greater good of the city. He proves himself to be no better.
I also felt like I was called to question the role of art for art's sake. We never know anything about Tadzio, except that he is very beautiful. Aschenbach never speaks to him; he only worships Tadzio as a representation of artistic beauty. This idolization ultimately results only in destruction.
Aschenbach achieves his ideal of suffering gracefully in the midst of ruins. I felt the novella itself paralleled this story. With Death in Venice, Thomas Mann has given his readers a beautifully written, well-crafted story about a strange and twisted subject.