Monday, November 4, 2013

Death in Venice (77th Book)

Death in Venice by Thomas Mann was the 77th book off of the big list that I read. I chose to read it now because I was on my honeymoon in Venice! I love reading books while travelling that are set in places that I am going. This novel is only 77 pages long so it was easy to finish while on the trip. The picture to the left is me reading the book on a canal by our hotel. Our waiter noticed me reading it and said he was just reading it now too.

There were a few things that made sense to me and leapt off the page because I was there. I loved this quoit about arriving at Venice by water. "He thought that to come to Venice by the station is like entering a place by the back door. No one should approach, save by the high seas as he was doing now, this most improbable of cities ". Although we arrived in Venice through the "back door" via train we left via the front door on a cruise ship. The view is indeed stunning as you float past Saint Marks piazza and the canal side Zatere. A second line that stuck out at me was about the predatory nature of street hawkers it is overwhelming to be constantly sought to make purchases. Venice was by no means the worst of the places we visited (that honour goes to Messina) but it was something I discovered on this trip. " thus the charm of this bizarre passage through the heart of Venice, even while it played upon his spirit, yet he was sensibly cooled by the predatory commercial spirit of the fallen queen of the seas"

The book follows an aging writer, Gustave Aschenbach who decides to take a holiday after noticing someone with a travel pack while on a walk. He chooses Venice after trying somewhere else first. At a hotel on the Lido he notices an attractive young boy and follows him avidly as he plays with his friends and dines with his family. He becomes obsessed with his youth and attractiveness and feels his age in a great way. The novel ends as he stays at the resort despite an outbreak of plague that ends up killing him. As the youth departs the resort, Aschenbach dies. It is almost like a parallel of the old passing the baton to the young.

It was interesting timing in choosing to read it now because the novel for the Novel 100 was an American Tragedy and I found a lot of parallels between the main characters and their obsessive love. Their attractions and desires ended up being their fatal flaw.

I think I preferred Magic Mountain better than this novella but the topic was more engaging than this one. I did find a great quote on beauty though: "it is the sole aspect of the spiritual which we can perceive through our senses, or bear so to perceive".

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