Death in Venice
by Thomas Mann
Translated by Kenneth Burke
With an Introduction by Erich Heller
Wood-Engravings by Felix Hoffman
1972, The Heritage Club
Sewn binding. Textured faux leather over spine, decorative swirl paper over boards. Gilt lettering and design on the spine. Cardboard slipcase. 1-.25", 107 pages, introduction, illustrations
Near New book in Good Slipcase. A clean, solid copy. Fading around the edges of the slipcase, a few light scuffs here and there.
From the Introduction
The autobiographical elements in "Death in Venice" are so obvious that they would hardly be worth discussing for their own sake; yet to attend to them means at the same time to contemplate something that is of greater interest than they are in themselves, namely, Thomas Mann's art of writing and thus some aspects of the art of writing as such. It is pleasurable as well as illuminating to watch Thomas Mann as he transforms "life," his life, into what Nietzsche called an "aesthetic phenomenon," a sensible composition in which every fragment falls into its seemingly preordained place, thus redeeming what as merely 'lived' experience may appear to be accidental and fragmentary. This he does by what sometimes looks like (but never is) a mere record of the experience itself, entrusting its artistic metamorphosis to the recorder's tone of voice, its rhythms, inflections and cadences: in brief, his style. Then again he merges what has happened in his own life with occurrences in other lives, related to this by real similarity or else chosen by him as "mythological" models, lives upon which myth or history has already bestowed representative or symbolic stature. However, this "mythologizing" soon begins to modify the "live" experience of the artist by coloring it with the tints of art, so that in the end we are no longer quite sure how much had to be "transformed." Indeed, a writer like Thomas Mann (or Proust or Joyce) comes to experience a great deal what for other people would simply be "life" as, from the outset, 'aesthetic' experience, as representative, mythological, or symbolic, in short, as "literature." Franz Kafka once rejected with indignant irony a graphologist's assertion, on examining his handwriting, that her had "literary interests." "No," Kafka exclaimed, "I have no literary interests; I 'am' literature!" This might profitably be remembered whenever the discussion of Thomas Mann works - and of much else in modern literature - reaches the inevitable points at which life and art come into view as eternally inimical opposites
"Death in Venice" tells the story of Gustav von Aschenbach, a writer, and thus the autobiographical element becomes all but unavoidable.