First published in 1900, when Thomas Mann was 25, Buddenbrooks is a minutely imagined chronicle of four generations of a North German mercantile family - a work so true to life that it scandalized the author's former neighbours in his native Lübeck.
As he charts the Buddenbrooks' decline from prosperity to bankruptcy, from moral and psychic soundness to sickly piety, artistic decadence and madness, Mann ushers the reader into a world of rich vitality, pieced together from births and funerals, weddings and divorces, recipes, gossip and earthy humour. It is perhaps the first great family saga of modern literature, and it brought to public notice a writer of world stature who, three decades later, was to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. David Rintoul gives one of his finest performances in this committed and deeply moving reading.
©1993 Alfred A Knopf (P)2016 Ukemi Productions Ltd
"There is scarcely any passion without struggle." Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
"That all those charms have pass'd away,
I might have watch'd through long decay...."
"And Thou art Dead, as Young and Fair," Lord Byron
Thomas Mann's moving 1901 saga of the Buddenbrooks, a respected, wealthy family of grain merchants, begins in 1835 at the death of the patriarch. The three successive generations suffer a decline in their finances and family ideals as values change and old hierarchies are upset by Germany's rapid industrialization. Two of the siblings, Thomas and Antonie, subordinate their personal happiness to the welfare of the family business. Antonie in particular gives up happiness twice for appearance's sake, each time being ravaged by reverses.
While Mann wrote this novel largely in an objective manner, the story represents a condemnation of the decadence of a materialistic society, as shown through this family. While the Buddenbrooks were naturally honest and good, imbued with love of family, they were also afflicted by a blind loyalty to their own class. They viewed each significant event in their lives, such as births, deaths, marriages, and social decisions, in relation to its effects on the family business. Their refusal to adapt to changing conditions, to act from their moral convictions rather than treating their business as a religion, and to accept those not of their class led to their destruction.
Mann showed an incredible attention to the descriptive details of the period as well as his affinity for leitmotifs such as those derived from his love of the operas of Richard Wagner. For example, blue skin and yellow teeth to represent decay and decadence in the family members.
One of the world's great novels: full of deep philosophy, warm comedy, the joys and sorrows of a memorable family. Wonderful characters are portrayed perfectly in this rendition.
This classic novel has been on my bucket list for years because it'slisted in most of the great literature polls, plus the author won the Nobel Prize. But I was blown away by how entertaining this book and the narrator are. I'm an audiobook junky who's listed to over 400 novels, most of them classics and best sellers. I thought I was familiar with the great narrators. Before this novel I hadn't heard of thos narrator. He's damn talented. He's the kind of narrator who devises a distinctive tone for each character, thus eschewing the need to figure out who is talking. I've decided to listen to his other books. I hope he does lots more to include Mann's other classic, The Magic Mountain.
Mann creates characters that you have love and sympathy for despite clearly showing all their foibles and limitations, and finally their self-destructive tendencies. It traces the history of four generations of a German bourgeois family in the nineteenth century from their pinnacle of success to its final dissolution. Their family history also mirrors the tremendous cultural, social, political, philosophical and religious changes going on about them. Yet the novel also teems with a richness of detail and humor which keeps the story buoyant in spite of its pessimism. The description of Hanno's Christmas is worth the price of admission alone.
David Rintoul is the ideal narrator for this book. I felt as if I were watching a movie instead of just listening.
Here is hoping that Ukemi and David Rintoul might bring us the audiobook version of The Magic Mountain.
"The German Middlemarch"
Very enjoyable reading of a clever translation, which catches the nuances of pre-unification German society. The decline of a mercantile family, often humorously drawn, played out against the seismic changes of the 19th century. Highly recommended.
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