Death in Venice, Thomas Mann

I just finished the story by Thomas Mann. It tells the story of Aschenbach a middle guy vacationing in Venice who falls for a teenage boy.  Though short, it takes some time to read. His writings are complex and rich in metaphors. Metaphors are hard to understand because many of them hinge on Greek mythology and Greek Philosophy.  You need to read Plato’ Symposium and Phaedrus to understand some of the philosophical underpinnings. Even on a first reading, I feel I do not quite understand it all. I might have read it again.

That said, I felt for the main character, Aschenbach and his unrequited love.  Ok the love isn’t kosher and it is quite pedarastic. But I will forgive him for the sake of literature.  Compared to Lolita, our protagonist is very tame. The ending is very sad.  I think it is funny how authors try to make illicit longing palatable by killing off the character who longs. Of course Mann wrote the story back in 1912, he had to do something.

There is some musing on beauty and the artist.  There is also some talk about beauty as the physical form of the divine —  platonic in construction.  But unlike Socrates, who would consider beauty as a vector to inner wisdom, our protagonist is merely consumed with the physical. In Pheadrus, Socrates says when a man falls in love with his beloved, the heat of infatuation is in fact the breaking through of spiritual wings that will lead the soul to the realm of the Eidos. While with Mann, the main character in love is gifted with creativity, bravery to do silly things for his beloved.

Anyway, the story has inspired me to be more philosophical in my writing.  The problem with being philosophical is that one can easily sound like a blovaiting buffoon. Like everything else, one has to work at it.


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