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Death in Venice : Thomas Mann's novella about the dying of a writer

South African Association for Language Teaching (SAALT)
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  • German Literature
  • Decadence
  • Thomas Mann And Nietzsche


Thomas Mann's novella Death in Venice does not deal with guilt and atonement, as one can often read, but with fate and destiny as in the ancient tragedy. In contrast, the main problem that his protagonist, the writer Gustav von Aschenbach, faces is a very modern one: the problem of the artist at the turn of the century who has seemingly reached the boundaries of his art. Aschenbach tries to overcome them by switchingfrom the Apo llinian to the Dionysian principle. He even throws himself into the arms of Dionysian ecstacy. From this point in the novella, the narrator increasingly distances himself from his protagonist. In doing so, he is representative of the author who, for himself, had decided against Bohemian-like excesses and had turned to a bourgeois lifestyle. This does not mean, however, that Thomas Mann had found a way out of that cul-de-sac in which the artists had ended up at the beginning of the modern age - on the contrary: Death in Venice is one of the most pessimistic texts he ever wrote.Keywords: German literature; decadence; Thomas Mann and Nietzsche

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