Saturday, December 15, 2012

Book 35-Buddenbrooks (49th book)

The 35th Book on the list was Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann. I was excited to read it because I quite liked Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. This book, however,  was not as good as Magic Mountain. Although I found the story engaging. I was not touched by it on a human level. It was a good story but that was about all it was.

The story follows the family Buddenbrooks throughout the generations as the family name and inheritance is slowly whittled away over time. The first Patriarch Johann is the epitome of practical while the last heir Hanno is the epitome of the artistic. Neither one of these individuals could have existed without the other. The novel as one of the buildungsroman genre shows that a healthy inner life is equally as important as a strong external life.

My favorite character was Tony who tried so hard to live well for the sake of the family name. Each of her successive marriages and the marriage of her daughter end badly for her and she is unable to realize the ideal of contributing to the family name that she so badly desires. She was the most realistically portrayed character for me. Tony really believed that "we are not separate, independent, self subsisting indviduals, but links in a chain". She gave up her childhood love for a marriage that she believed would be an honour to her family. She constantly referred to this stage of her life as her being a "silly goose".

There are some interesting themes in the book that seem reflected by the last line of the novel which is uttered by Sesame Weichbrodt in response to Tony's comment that, " God strike me , but sometimes I doubt that there is any justice, any goodness, I doubt it all. Life, you see crushes us, it shatters our faith. See them again, if only it were so"

Sesame, who has educated generations of Buddenbrooks still holds out hope that "It is so".

Although the book is a novel about the decline of a family. It appears to hold out hope that even though things get bad that there is something worth living for. It looks at life realistically in that it might not always be easy or good but that it is worth it nonetheless.

Here are some quotes I liked

"I've always been of the opinion that all men are equal and that we don't need any middlemen between us and our God"

"What is success? ...the belief that life can be molded to my advantage"

"...responded in one way in his strong and optimistic moments, and another  when he was weary...he was a mixture of both"

"A happy, present is not something we can always take for granted."