Death in Venice

A New Translation by Michael Henry Heim
Narrated by: Simon Callow
Length: 3 hrs and 9 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (248 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The world-famous masterpiece by Nobel laureate Thomas Mann - here in a new translation by Michael Henry Heim

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 Gustave 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 listeners say about Death in Venice

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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.

13 people found this helpful

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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.

25 people found this helpful

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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.

5 people found this helpful

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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.

5 people found this helpful

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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 people found this helpful

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Death in Venice

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

9 people found this helpful

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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.

2 people found this helpful

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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....

1 person found this helpful

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Verbose

While the voice actor is amazing, the story itself is long and drawn out. As soon as it gets interesting the narrator goes on a long tangent that makes no sense half way through. I understand the purpose of it but it is not entertaining. I wouldn’t have chose to listen to it on my own but am doing it for school.

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One of the Great Novellas of the 20th Century; Topical Listening During the 2020 Corona Virus Pandemic

NOTE: Some plot points are discussed in my review.

Mann, for me, is a transitional writer. He has one foot still in the nineteenth century approach to the novel, and one foot too in the twentieth century; he is nearly, but not quite, a modern.

The novella Death in Venice is one of my favorites. It tells the story of an aging intellectual suddenly without warning “living dangerously”. Obsessed as he is with his own ideas and his inner dialogue as he examines these ideas, he grows increasingly infatuated with a boy he sees for the first time at a hotel during a solo vacation to Venice. He finds himself in a city that seems to be in the grips of a typhoid epidemic that quickly overwhelms the city shortly after his arrival.

A great novella, examining the perils to the body of allowing one’s obsession with one’s ideas; of living a life dominated by one’s mind alone. I’ve read this work before and remembered how much I enjoyed it, and it seemed a quite appropriate choice to listen to during the current (early 2020) Novel Corona Virus / COVID-19 pandemic.

I’ve listened to Simon Callow’s narration of the Aeneid, as well as his reading of Shakespeare’s sonnets and enjoyed his narrative skill very much. His reading of Mann’s novella here does not disappoint; it is brisk, positively full of his unique vocal character’s ability to engage and transport a listener, and I thoroughly enjoyed Callow’s reading of Death in Venice too.