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Publisher's Summary

Published on the eve of World War I, a decade after Buddenbrooks had established Thomas Mann as a literary celebrity, Death in Venice tells the story of Gustav von Aschenbach, a successful but aging writer who follows his wanderlust to Venice in search of spiritual fulfillment that instead leads to his erotic doom.

In the decaying city, besieged by an unnamed epidemic, he becomes obsessed with an exquisite Polish boy, Tadzio. "It is a story of the voluptuousness of doom," Mann wrote. "But the problem I had especially in mind was that of the artist's dignity."

©2004 Michael Henry Heim (P)2004 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • William
  • North Bay, Ontario, Canada
  • 10-21-06

For the Love of Language

"Death" in Venice" can be enjoyed on several levels. I continue to enjoy it, time and time again, if only for the sheer beauty of Mann's writing. He is the Mozart of the written word; there are no unnecessary or discordant notes. This new translation is so superb as to be beyond criticism. We simply need more like it.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant gem

This long short story is one of the greatest ever written. While not really modernist in the sense of Woolf, Faulkner, etc, I found myself in a 'symbolic' state of dreamy, beautiful imagery & thought the whole way. This is a journey near the end of a basically proper classic intellectual European life that turns into a quest for the nectar of the gods at a distance. Lolita is clearly prefigured here. You will think of Durrell and Nabokov and so many others who must follow and the myths and so many who are encompassed. I felt like Death in Venice was one of those works that will stay in my mind the rest of my life.

24 of 26 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 05-12-18

Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man

“Solitude produces originality, bold & astonishing beauty, poetry. But solitude also produces perverseness, the disproportionate, the absurd, and the forbidden.”
― Thomas Mann, Death in Venice

I've been intimidated by Mann. He's a mountain. I own a bunch of his works, in various translation, but keep finding reasons to walk another road, skip ahead, fall behhind. For me he has sat waiting like a distant leviathan or like death. So, finding myself in a position where I really felt I could delay no longer, I started with his shorter work - Death in Venice.

First, the introduction by Michael Cunningham is a fantastic introduction of the difficulties associated with translation. All fiction is a translation. All works differ, since they all are impacted by writer and reader. Both imperfect, both carrying their own history. Even the same work, read by the same reader at different times (think King Lear) will feel different to the reader at different stages and ages. So, it is with translations. Different translators are going to experience Mann's Death in Venice in different ways. Gustav von Aschenbach will appear the fool to some or an artist gripped by obscession and passion by others. There is no exactly right answer.

So, how was this translation? I don't know. I don't read German and have only read ONE translation, but I loved Heim's take. I love the idea of Aschenbach's obscession overtaking him and ultimately (perhaps?) destroying him. We all would be so lucky if our passions destroyed us, perhaps.

So, perhaps, I am ready for Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A masterpiece from Thomas Mann

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

This is a great way to read Thomas Mann, who can be long and wordy.

What did you like best about this story?

The descent into lust, madness, obsession and degradation is one of literature's most dramatic scenes. The master artist Aschenbach, restrained, honored, and successful debases himself in a pursuit of beauty. That it is forbidden love makes the debasement more horrifying and sickening. There is always a combination of gorgeousness with absolute ugliness and horror.

What about Simon Callow’s performance did you like?

This is a restrained, refined performance.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

The end is one of those passagese in literature that you read and re-read. Though it's inevitable, it still is shocking.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Barry
  • Petaluma, CA, United States
  • 08-04-12

I know I'm not being fair but

maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind. I know this is one of the giants of modern literature, the prose is brilliant, the exposition is brilliant, the one and only real character is brilliantly detailed and nuanced, but the subject just didn't resonate with me. OK, so it's the biggest most important subject in the world. Yes, I agree with that. It is also, within the boundaries of this book, a very tiny exploration of a specific perspective on that subject. Maybe audio just isn't the right medium for a first trip through this book. It's the kind of book that requires you to just stop and savor each thing the author says.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Death in Venice

A gorgeous reading of a great masterpiece. Couldn't be better.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Simon Callow is terrific. Loved the translation.

This translation of the book is an improvement over the one most people have read. Simon Callow’s narration is a masterful performance. I loved it.

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  • T Cyr
  • Missoula, MT United States
  • 09-11-17

Best Translation, Poorly Read!

First of all Michael Cunningham's introduction on the process of writing and translations is brilliant, worth the price of admission on this audio book. This is a story I have been fascinated with for many decades and tend to read every so many years, always searching for translations that get to the core of it's poetic beauty. This may be one of the best I have read/heard as most translations are often a bit stilted, missing the emotional context sacrificed for a more literal meaning. This one seems more accessible to a modern audience. Did not like Simon Callow's reading of it. Seemed like he was racing through it. Too, too fast to grasp the beautifully textured imagery of the words. I couldn't grasp or linger in it's dense poetry as he had already moved on by the time I could conjure in my minds eye. For goodness sake it's a short story, could slow it down a bit to savor and linger in it's haunting imagery.

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Provocative Prose

This incredible novellette was written as if the words were directly extracted from Aschenbach's mind....amazing writing. The story told elegantly but with incredible power and passion.....amazing storytelling. The forward equally as fascinating....

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Headline

Except for the introduction, I enjoyed the narration. Of course the story is fascinating. I want to go back to Venice.