Doctor Faustus

Doctor Faustus[Read] ➯ Doctor Faustus By Thomas Mann – Bluevapours.co.uk Thomas Mann s last great novel, first published in and now rendered into English by acclaimed translator John E Woods, is a modern reworking of the Faust legend, in which Germany sells its soul to th Thomas Mann s last great novel, first published inand now rendered into English by acclaimed translator John E Woods, is a modern reworking of the Faust legend, in which Germany sells its soul to the Devil Mann s protagonist, the composer Adrian Leverk hn, is the flower of German culture, a brilliant, isolated, overreaching figure, his radical new music a breakneck game played by art at the very edge of impossibility In return for twenty four years of unparalleled musical accomplishment, he bargains away his soul and the ability to love his fellow manLeverk hn s life story is a brilliant allegory of the rise of the Third Reich, of Germany s renunciation of its own humanity and its embrace of ambition and its nihilism It is also Mann s most profound meditation on the German genius both national and individual and the terrible responsibilities of the truly great artist.

Librarian Note There isthan one author in the GoodReads database with this name See this thread forinformationSee also Serbian Tomas ManThomas Mann was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and Nobel Prize laureate in , known for his series of highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual His analysis and critique of the European and German soul used modernized German and Biblical stories, as well as the ideas of Goethe, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer His older brother was the radical writer Heinrich Mann, and three of his six children, Erika Mann, Klaus Mann and Golo Mann, also became important German writers When Hitler came to power in , Mann fled to Switzerland When World War II broke out in , he emigrated to the United States, from where he returned to Switzerland in Thomas Mann is one of the best known exponents of the so called Exilliteratur.

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  • Paperback
  • 535 pages
  • Doctor Faustus
  • Thomas Mann
  • English
  • 06 February 2019
  • 0375701168

10 thoughts on “Doctor Faustus

  1. Lisa says:

    Ode to Despair Figuratively or musically speaking, Thomas Mann lets time and culture move backwards, from the emotional bliss and security of Beethoven s 9th symphony expressing hope for humanity, to his 5th symphony symbolising fate knocking at the door, in one German novel of gigantic weight and proportions Starting with the 19th century s belief in progress and development, the plot moves us through the delusional madness of the first and second world wars, showing the genius of German cult Ode to Despair Figuratively or musically speaking, Thomas Mann lets time and culture move backwards, from the emotional bliss and security of Beethoven s 9th symphony expressing hope for humanity, to his 5th symphony symbolising fate knocking at the door, in one German novel of gigantic weight and proportions Starting with the 19th century s belief in progress and development, the plot moves us through the delusional madness of the first and second world wars, showing the genius of German culture degenerate into mental disease and the destructive power of Nazi Germany.We follow a narrator s obsessively close analysis of a childhood friend, a talented and self important musician with charisma His path is marked by the historical era and personal setbacks, and his slow physical decline due to the contraction of a sexually transmitted disease is mirrored in the poisoning of German minds during the first half of the 20th century The climax of the novel is of mythical power A young child, a lovely five year old boy who goes by the ominous name of Echo, dies in brutal pain of meningitis, and the musician who watches this happen in despair rejects Beethoven s 9th symphony and its joyous message It is a year of fate, a time of decline, the beginning of the 1930s, and after losing the lovely Echo, the artist is locked in the introspection of a lost Narcissus unhappily in love with himself and unable to interact constructively with the world Only an Echo of past times remainsThe Faustian pact with the devil played out on the stage of German 20th century catastrophe, told in the old fashioned novel language of the erudite 19th century s educational idealism a heavy diet to digest for sure It is the swan song of a novel tradition that Thomas Mann saw as one of the casualties of modern life and warfare.How to even think or write in German after the Holocaust, he asks himself in the narrator s voice on the last pages, when his hero is dying in a state of idiocy while the masters of the Third Reich kill themselves after having destroyed the culture for which Beethoven and Thomas Mann used to be symbols.Powerfully eloquent, hopelessly sad, surviving despite the odds, this is a true masterpiece in multiple layers, but not for the faint of heart

  2. Fionnuala says:

    Spring cleaning my goodreads shelves recently, I noticed the absence of a review for this book Truth to tell, I was aware of its absence the thought of reviewing Doctor Faustus has haunted me since I finished the book two months ago But spring cleaning is still a useful analogy When the stronger rays of the sun hit our window panes at this time of the year, they reveal the layers of dust that have built up on the glass over the winter, and which block our view of the outside world Serenus Spring cleaning my goodreads shelves recently, I noticed the absence of a review for this book Truth to tell, I was aware of its absence the thought of reviewing Doctor Faustus has haunted me since I finished the book two months ago But spring cleaning is still a useful analogy When the stronger rays of the sun hit our window panes at this time of the year, they reveal the layers of dust that have built up on the glass over the winter, and which block our view of the outside world Serenus Zeitblom, the narrator of this book, is such a layer of dust He is always there, fixed between the reader and the world of the book, and he is less than transparent I wanted to get a cloth and scrub him away, or better still, open the window and look out upon the world of Doctor Faustus for myself Serenus Zeitblom What a name It conjures up a peaceful flower filled time when all dangers and threats are nonexistent A little joke on Thomas Mann s part, I think He likes his jokes, the obvious ones and thehidden ones while reading The Magic Mountain and Buddenbrooks, I noticed how carefully he chooses his words, his images and metaphors This is an author who thinks in layers and he makes us want to access all the layers But our way is blocked by Serenus From the very beginning of this book, I found myself distracted by Serenus voice It prevented me from focusing on the deeper layers of the story itself, the account of the life of the fictional musician and composer, the Doctor Faustus figure of the title, Adrian Leverk hn Taking his role of narrator ber seriously, Serenus tries very hard to build up a relationship with the reader whom he addresses as his potential reader in the early stages, always keen to underline the authenticity of his testimony, that this is an account that will take him a long time and much anguish to tell This underlining of the biographical nature of the account seemed to make it less true for me The lengths Serenus goes to in order to explain how he knew exactly what was said in a conversation he wasn t present at or how he knows what is contained in a letter he never actually saw, interfered with the moderately willing suspension of my disbelief and only served to make me excessively suspicious of him Proust has a narrator who knows farthan anyone could possibly know about the rest of the characters lives, but apart from creating a few unlikely voyeuristic opportunities for him, Proust doesn t worry too much about how his narrator acquires his omniscience He knows we know that he is writing a fictional autobiography Serenus is trying to pretend that he is writing fact, and Thomas Mann is hiding so well behind his narrator that the dry humour I d loved in The Magic Mountain doesn t get past Serenus sober facade It could be argued that this proves how successful Thomas Mann has been in creating his narrator, that the narrator was so real for me that he, and not the story he was telling, became the central point of the book If that was what he intended, he succeeded very well.Serenus frequently stresses the haphazard nature of his account, that it has been written at a distance of many years from the events it describes, and during the unprecedented upheaval of WWII He forecasts a similar upheaval for the reader as his biographical account progresses and he sounds a note of mysterious tragedy from the beginning I experienced this ominous warning as the narrator seeking to make us, the readers, complicit in something nefarious in which he has been closely involved We have been warned and read on at our peril It is my belief, by the way, not only that those who read me will, in time, come to understand my inner turmoil, but also that in the long run it will not be foreign to them either. Serenus also emphasises the unplanned nature of what he is writing and how he is organizing it, pointing out how unintentional it is that the thirteenth chapter just happens to be the one that contains some unsettling references to evil when we know well that everything here is intentional Equally intentional, and frequently emphasised, is the idea that the dependence of good rests on the existence of evil, and it is left to women to carry the burden of the proof of evil s existence Women and sex seem to equal evil in his version of events On that note, I will finish with Serenus excuse me while I take a moment to defenestrate him he risked blocking your vision of what this book is about as much as he did mine There were many aspects of this book I really enjoyed the sections on music, especially in the early chapters when I listened to a lot of pieces as I read, The Harmonious Blacksmith Beethoven s Opus III and many .I was also very struck by the idea that music can bethan an aural experience there s the visual aspect of the notes on the page and there s a mathematical angle too The composer exists as as artist, mathematician and writer The idea of the composer as a writer is particularly intriguing Mann reminds us that Beethoven continued to write music long after he became deaf but could experience it by reading the score as we read a book.I loved the character of Adrian Leverk hn too, there was an honesty about him that seemed to me in total contrast to the narrator s opacity although the narrator supposedly represented good and Adrian evil Adrian has an interesting and refreshing take on the world that I really liked I have been damned from the start with the need to laugh at the most mysterious and impressive spectacles, and I fled from my exaggerated sense of the comic into theology hoping it would soothe the tickle, only to find a lot of things awfully comic there as well Why must almost everything appear to me as its own parody Why must it seem as if all the means and contrivances of art nowadays are good only for parody Around 1920, Adrian goes off to live in Schweigstill, a village south of Munich in search of the peace and quiet he needs in order to be able to compose music The village sounds very like the one Kandinsky retreated to around 1910 for much the same reasons Reading about this episode in Adrian s life gave me the opportunity to revisit Kandinsky s art which I love It is interesting to note that it was while Kandinsky was enjoying the peace in Murnau village view spoiler hide spoiler that he made the break from representational art to abstract art This mirrors Leverk hn s own journey from classical composition to the kind of atonal harmonies associated with Arnold Schoenberg s music, a transition he made during the period he spent in Schweigstill Another neat coincidence worth mentioning here are the references Thomas Mann makes to Laurence Sterne and Jonathan Swift, both of whom I was reading while I was reading Doctor Faustus.Speaking of Swift and Sterne reminds me of the aspect of Mann s writing I admire the most his quirky characters I think some of his best writing happens when he describes people and their idiosyncrasies However, I found myself wondering what the point of the particularly large cast of such characters was, how they could possibly serve the plot and its d nouement, and such thoughts did distract me a little Being distracted by minor details while major themes were being developed and played out before my eyes was a problem for me all along and brings me to the allegorical aspects of Doctor Faustus which I ve neatly sidestepped up until now Mann intended this book to be a comment on Germany s metamorphosis during the first half of the twentieth century There are many references to the rise of National Socialism and to the changes which took place under the Nazis I do not like it when someone wants to have it all his way, takes the word right out of his opponent s mouth, twists it, and creates a general confusion of concepts It is being done at present with the greatest brazenness, and that is the chief cause of my living in seclusion. This echoes the words of Victor Klemperer, another author I ve been reading recently In The Language of the Third Reich LTI Lingua Tertii Imperii A Philologist s Notebook, he analyses the way the Nazis changed the very meaning of words to suit their purposes If someone replaces the words heroic and virtuous with fanatical for long enough, he will come to believe that a fanatic really is a virtuous hero, and that no one can be a hero without fanaticism.In an odd correspondence, this statement can be applied to Doctor Faustus but in reverse the hero may well not be the fanatic the virtuous man makes him out to be and the virtuous man may beof a fanatic than he admits Complex view spoiler The devil is mentioned frequently in chapter 13, and if I was as suspicious as Serenus, I might question why goodreads crashed yesterday just as I was uploading this review, completely wiping it out Fortunately I had some notes but this is nevertheless a different review to the one I wrote yesterday I went a little easier on the book today hide spoiler

  3. Kalliope says:

    THE LAMENTATIONS OF THE HUMANIST NOVEL Oratorio in Five Parts.Composer M.Conductor s Edition.Dynamics and Mood Melancholia.Tonality G minor.Venue Church of St Thomas, Leipzig.Date 23rd May 1943 Duration The Hour Glass will determine its Time.Premi re Serenus Zeitblom as Conductor.Singers Tanya Orlanda a dramatic soprano and a stupendous woman with a heroic voice.Harald Kjoejelund as Heldentenor, a quite rotund man with pince nez and voice of brass p 293 OVERTUREI, John Seren THE LAMENTATIONS OF THE HUMANIST NOVEL Oratorio in Five Parts.Composer M.Conductor s Edition.Dynamics and Mood Melancholia.Tonality G minor.Venue Church of St Thomas, Leipzig.Date 23rd May 1943 Duration The Hour Glass will determine its Time.Premi re Serenus Zeitblom as Conductor.Singers Tanya Orlanda a dramatic soprano and a stupendous woman with a heroic voice.Harald Kjoejelund as Heldentenor, a quite rotund man with pince nez and voice of brass p 293 OVERTUREI, John Serenus Zeitblom of Patmos, of Kaisersachsen Will have to show in this Overture a quick review of what is to come And I will direct the music of the spheres so that the Audience will know what I surmise, that an Oratorio needs an understanding and reliable Conductor if it is to speak to our rationality Without me this piece would have no coherence for I am the medium to bring it to life Music, like novels, need a narrator.The violins begin and the fist bars are from Haydn s Creation Number One is the creation of prime light out of Chaos followed by the angels playing their harp arpeggios One angel is out of tune and I signal to him that he has to go Now we need the planets, and I summon Holst to show us that Order and Sound are in the Spheres But he stays on the sides Waiting.But as the overture is also a warning, a foretaste of what follows, I will borrow from Verdi and his Macbeth visiting the witches More bewitching music is needed and I will introduce then some of Liszt s Mephisto Waltzes in all their sensuality.FIRST Part A Trio of Order, Humanity and Love Goodness is in nature And observing nature is how we approach the ultimate morality The brilliancy of Vivaldi s seasons lead onto Beethoven s Largo in the Pastoral but the most mysterious is certainly Mahler s early bars summoning the Naturlaut, the sounds of nature, from his First Symphony.So that we do not forget that there is a religiosity in this natural phenomenon, the choir will now intone sections from Hildegard s Liber Divinorum Operum Mysticism as another voice To reinforce her point, Holst now finally comes to the fore with his Neptune, the Mystic planet, and we hear the celestial sounds of his celesta accompanied by the harps of Haydn s angels With the perfect environment now created, the Viola d A comes forth and will play as soloist leading onto the Duet for Adam and Eve from the Third Act of the Sch pfung They are the first witnesses to the marvels and for this they sing So Wunderbar Love in Paradise Is there a better thing Holst again comes to the fore with his Venus of sweet harmonic passions There is also a planetary dimension to paradisiacal love.Unexpectedly, some dark tonalities enter in a crescendo, and Haydn warns the pair, through his angel, of the dangers of wishing to go beyond the knowledge that has been given to them.Humanity is then officially launched and is free to proceed and create its culture, always in the search of greater light.SECOND Part Barbarism lurks and Love affected.Bliss is not just Love, and Mozart takes us to the temple of Wisdom in his Zauberfl te The Enlightenment posits itself as the apex of Humanism In his Temple of Ordeal Mozart invokes L ther s Hymn Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein Oh God, look down from heaven as another Adam and Eve enter the Temple of Light and Wisdom.For love continued through the ages and it is powerful In Berlioz s La Damnation de Faust Marguerite sings the beautiful D Amour l ardente flame But dissonance menaces concords as love is threatened by adultery, prostitution, and jealousy Verdi s Othello proves how the blessed can be led astray and one harmonic single melody can break apart, Diceste questa sera le vostre preci Have you said your prayers tonight One could be dammed by the devil with You may not love Love is forbidden you insofar as it warms Your life shall be cold hence you may love no human p 264 What kind of punishment is this Dissonance comes from the narrowing of human mind, and nationalism lurks with its limiting frontiers Peace has to be international if it is to be at all If we forget Handel, the great internationalist, born in Germany but who learnt a great deal of his music in the land of the arts, incorporated elements from the land of beauty, and then developed his compositions in yet another court, we could fall and let us be driven by nationalist conjuring in its devilish quest for power International forces that lead and maintain peace can be forgotten.Is Stravinsky staging barbarism in the demonic dances of the Earth in his Rite of Spring as he explores nationalistic streaks Is nationalism ready to do any kind of sacrifice Has our culture departed in great distance from Vivaldi s Primavera when it has stopped seeking beauty Or is it freer from bourgeois clich s Ethics, Love, Aesthetics, Peace, Morality, and Creativity You can t have them all Something has to be sacrificed.THIRD Part Rebellion against Order the Devilish A series of Diminished Sevenths, which do not lead to a given tonality but which let you halt wherever you choose, introduce this part.But one may need a Sorcerer to make sense out of these invocations, and we invite Holst again with his Uranus, the Magician To Holst s planet we add a choir A, dancing one with the Witches Sabbath from Arrigo Boito s Mephistopheles provide the best accompaniment.For how much freedom is there in artistic creation Can one deny one s tradition and preexisting compositions Aren t any new creations variations of a given theme How many times is the Faust legend recreated What can a conductor do to order the sound of the different instruments and impose some rationality Is the Conductor a sort of F hrer in this chaos Who said the Author was Dead I feel lost in the middle of all my doubts, and I have to hold onto the podium.Is language eternal is art eternal Paul Celan said that after the Holocaust no poetry was possible Is language international, yes, but which language What is the reach that a book in German can have when published in a country where that language is not spoken Can language depict Hell Dante posited himself as its poet But Thomas Mann does not think so, even if he quotes Dante in his Title page.Is there a rebellion against beauty or is just creativity fleeing the commonplace The golden days of the Novel have past, or may be they just have escaped from the sentimental May be the emotional harmonic melodies have to stop and we have to go back to the cold and precise counterpoint Do we have to break from the Circle of Fifths and from closed narratives Is Irrationality the way to Freedom FOURTH Part Hell is where the Devilish is Fallen.We enter this part with a series of Tritones, the Diabolo in music as perceived in the Middle Ages It is still jarring to our ears and the Audience is audibly agitated in their seats It is a warped counterpoint But we are not alone Accompanied by Orpheus, we descend into Hell Gluck, Offenbach, Monteverdi, and others lead us But in spite of their help I need throw the Dice and signal to the players Each time we perform different variations of the past repertory, and the constellation of devilish, Mephistofelian compositions, can be played in succession or in a contrapuntal manner to let all possible dissonances create a new order.For too much order reminds us of Nationalsozialismus.Smetana, Gounod, Boito, Berlioz, Mussorgsky, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Mahler, Prokofiev, Bussoni They are all invoked for all played the Mephisto theme.But if we fall, then we need Britten s Requiem We should not forget that wars also have a tradition and there are some areas in the world that seem to have a Gate to Hades Just think of the Balkans, or of the islands in the Pacific, or the Black Sea.After a cacophony of Mephistoes we can then dive deep into Cage s 4 33 , in which only time, with its exact and limited duration offers either a renewal or a damnation What can the conductor do Keep ticking the b ton Where are the emotions Is this taking us back to the Middle Ages Who said that Hell was the loss of creativity FIFTH Part On Retribution and Penitence.We need a warning, a fatal warning and Mozart s Commendatore is brought back again in all his stoniness Will he be enough to awaken our expiation, our Contrition Are we to finish with a G tterd mmerung, and welcome destruction or do we have hope and can invoke Beethoven s Ninth I choose the latter, and a secondary dominant in A for Art and Amor leads to a cadential G for Grace and Goodness.Amen

  4. Vit Babenco says:

    a night, where it doesn t get dark for the lightnings This was the entire troubled life of the great groundbreaking composer Adrian Leverk hn This is the world of man All about him was coldness and how do I feel, using this word, which he himself, in an uncanny connection, once also set down Life and experience can give to single syllables an accent utterly divorcing them from their common meaning and lending them an aura of horror, which nobody understands who has not learned them in that a night, where it doesn t get dark for the lightnings This was the entire troubled life of the great groundbreaking composer Adrian Leverk hn This is the world of man All about him was coldness and how do I feel, using this word, which he himself, in an uncanny connection, once also set down Life and experience can give to single syllables an accent utterly divorcing them from their common meaning and lending them an aura of horror, which nobody understands who has not learned them in that awful context.This is the world of music that is the sound, almost lost in space, the cosmic ozone of another poem, wherein spirits in golden barks traverse the heavenly sea and the ringing course of gleaming songs wreathes itself down and wells up again Thomas Mann collides these worlds so the world of music gets richer and the world of man turns ruined Setting on music the poem I Saw a Chapel by William Blake , symbolizing the descent of evil unto the earth, is, in a way, a key to the meaning of this allegorical novel Composing the ominously prophetic music Adrian Leverk hn augurs immersion of the world into the cosmic darkness and the darkness of his music slowly substitutes his inner self, destroying his ego.This is what I think that an untruth of a kind that enhances power holds its own against any ineffectively virtuous truth And I mean too that creative, genius giving disease, disease that rides on high horse over all hindrances, and springs with drunken daring from peak to peak, is a thousand times dearer to life than plodding healthiness No matter what is cause and what is effect, genius comes into this world to create and to leave his creations to the others

  5. Lee Klein says:

    Got up before dawn this morning to finish the last two chapters with coffee, knew I wouldn t be able to read the final 17 pages last night didn t really want to put the book down over the past few days as it started to take off towards its finale thanks to waydramatization than in, well, most of it Like all Mann I ve read it requires and it rewards patience Like in The Magic Mountain, if you make it through the first 250 300 slow, dense pages, things take off at a pretty good upwards Got up before dawn this morning to finish the last two chapters with coffee, knew I wouldn t be able to read the final 17 pages last night didn t really want to put the book down over the past few days as it started to take off towards its finale thanks to waydramatization than in, well, most of it Like all Mann I ve read it requires and it rewards patience Like in The Magic Mountain, if you make it through the first 250 300 slow, dense pages, things take off at a pretty good upwards clip, plus the long opening semi slog becomes a super strong foundation on which Mr Mann builds his dramatic and thematic pinnacles I m glad I read this after Stefan Zweig s Holderlin, Kleist, and Nietzsche The Struggle with the Daemon, which presents three real case studies of melancholic genius madness in Germanic artists Adrian fits the bill I streamed F.M Murnau s 1926 silent film version of Faust earlier in the year and I really only remember a few images from it a dark cloud enveloping a city that s also Satan s wing, the ending image of the Christ like embodiment of Love Liebe I ve never made it throughthan a few pages of Goethe s Faust, deeming it maybe untranslatable In Mann s version, no archangel swoops in to rescue the damned A divine little boy makes a stand toward the end but not for long, thanks to Adrian s pact, which is sort of the point of the novel s end after Nazi horrorshow, the mass destruction and murder but also the eternal damnation in the narrator s eyes of all things German the land, the people, the language, the culture , redemption hope for humanity won t come easy Only after everything is destroyed, including Beethoven s Ode to Joy, which Adrian s The Lamentations of Dr Faustus reverses, do we have a chance I found the narrator the POV approach pretty problematic through most not all of the novel I was all like why s Mann mussing his story with this mask Why not just tell the story of the damned musical genius and parallel it with WWII hell and otherwise get outta the way of its awesomeness Temporally, Mann probably needed the musical overthrow of polyphony to precede Nazi overthrow of humanity, since it wouldn t have made historical sense if they occurred simultaneously Maybe Mann also wanted to formally disrupt the story the way Adrian uses dissonance Regardless, it s hard to believe that the narrator isn t Mann himself When Zeitblom says oh how badly I m writing, I think something like oh how badly Mann is trying to express his story through this narrator who of course shouldn t write as well as Thomas Mann but then, well, every once in a while takes on these jags of straight up towering literary artistry Four point five stars since I can t shake the sense I had through the first 250 pages that such a lengthy development wasn t totally necessary, that these pages could have been reduced and integrated after Adrian s pact with Satan, although of course that would ve been a sensationalist way to start the novel It helps I guess that we have young Adrian s secret, almost ashamed discovery of the harmonium, the image of his arrogant laughter, the characterizing repetition of that gesture of a sort of absence as he turns away with a slight smile There s also the foundation of the relationship the narrator has with Adrian, the boyhood chumminess love complete with use of the informal familiar tense, and then the loss of that and the narrator s jealousy for the friendship, most likely also of the flesh, per Adrian s confession at the end, between Adrian and the flirty violinist As in a lot of Mann, there s suggested homosexuality this time between Adrian and the violinist There s also maybe the suggestion that Adrian contracted syphilis from touching the girl with the flat nose mermaid Esmeralda muse that leads to migraines and madness One of the most memorable scenes is when the virtuoso violinist sits in with a little chamber orchestra in a room of a hotel with a glass floor, wows everyone, and then insists on skiing behind the horse drawn sleigh He s clearly doomed at that moment a superhuman figure, who like little Echo the golden boy, is doomed Loved the two teachers early on the typical proto Nazi German and the American stutterer who conveys his passion for music to Adrian The music elements weren t as pronounced as I thought they d be I couldn t quite follow all of it but I got the gist for the most part At one time I pulled out my guitar to confirm that the notes written out for the refrain that acknowledges Adrian s muse sound like the devil s tritone, which we all know from Black Sabbath Loved the few pages where Adrian relays what it s like to journey underwater in a diving bell, passages that extrapolate out to discussion of the infinite cosmos reminded me of Hans lost in the snow in The Magic Mountain and Joseph in the well in Joseph and His Brothers, still by far my fave of the Mann I ve read Mann excels when he places a sensitive young dude in potentially tragic solitary confinement In this one, Adrian s confinement is all encompassing and intellectual rather than physical In general, after a slow start thanks mostly to long essayistic stretches, the story takes off, addled by cliffhangers and some melodrama, sure, but it s all saved by the heft of the pacts Germany and Adrian have made with evil Really an amazingly ambitious artistic achievement worth re reading though I doubt I will anytime soon 4.5 stars for now although I ll maybe knock it up to five over time as I remember the strong finish overall sense of it and everything else falls away

  6. Geoff says:

    No, to the very end, this dark tone poem permits no consolation, reconciliation, transfiguration But what if the artistic paradox, which says that expression, the expression of lament, is born out of the construct as a whole, corresponds to the religious paradox, which says that out of the profoundest irredeemable despair, if only as the softest of questions, hope may germinate This would be hope beyond hopelessness, the transcendence of despair not its betrayal, but the miracle that goes bNo, to the very end, this dark tone poem permits no consolation, reconciliation, transfiguration But what if the artistic paradox, which says that expression, the expression of lament, is born out of the construct as a whole, corresponds to the religious paradox, which says that out of the profoundest irredeemable despair, if only as the softest of questions, hope may germinate This would be hope beyond hopelessness, the transcendence of despair not its betrayal, but the miracle that goes beyond faith Just listen to the ending, listen with me One instrumental group after the other steps back, and what remains as the work fades away is the high G of a cello, the final word, the final sound, floating off, slowly vanishing in a pianissimo fermataThen nothingSilence and night But the tone, which is no , for which, as it hangs there vibrating in the silence, only the soul still listens, and which was the dying note of sorrow is no longer that, its meaning changes, it stands as a light in the nightYes, Doctor Faustus is clearly an allegory for the rise of the Third Reich And to a certain extent, it can be read as Mann s moral reckoning with his self imposed exile from those events I am ever averse to read biography into fiction, but there are obvious parallels between Mann and Leverk hn and his Boswell Serenus Zeitblom s world withdrawal oh what names in this book wonderful bizarre naming that even Pynchon would be proud of To me, the disintegration of the German state into barbarism is among the least interesting facets of this tremendously complex work, whose sections discussing music theory and philosophy alone would justify its existence But of course here we are given so muchIt is a sorrowful and tragic study of the troubling nature of genius, the public s relation to genius and genius s own response to the cursed manifold life of the person driven to create at the same time it is a rather thorough history and critique of Western music, an exhaustive study of its origins and development it is also a novel full of characters eccentric, doomed, strange, living through a particularly horrible period of history mostly, it is concerned with elucidating the fate of secular and theological approaches to life and art as civilization careened into the nihilism of the 20th century it is about the dialectic of history and how resolutions splinter into further antagonisms, in personal and historical circumstances, and how wholeness, which can really only be conceived or achieved through great works of art, often comes at a terrible cost to the ones who have brought it into being It is a book very much about the limits of human love to influence worldly events Mann s intelligence is so thorough and far reaching that all of this is given in what seems effortless exposition, in lovely prose that is able to elide easily from subjects as disparate as the biblical origins of ethics to the particularities of polyphony in atonal composition, and make them all seem of a piece It falls on the side of forgiveness and the urge toward love in the face of the baffling incomprehensibility of humanity s monstrous failings Here Mann locates art, that which resolves the horrible contradictions, which expresses in ambiguous tones something that, as much as is possible within the limits of our expressive capabilities, names the approach of grace It is a chorale of poor sinners laments, the accumulated wail which is the song of the world, this drop of water spinning in the abyss, which, despite everything, is still a light in the night

  7. Tony says:

    Is it enough to say I loved it No, that won t do Although, it seems silly to write a proper review Oh, there are pages of notes stuck in the back some pretension of understanding But this is a book you could devote an entire academic life to Or even be humbled in a group read with readers who know or can track down every clue My thanks to all of you who enriched this read And for letting me tag along I don t know if all group reads are like this I suspect not but my sincere thanks to Is it enough to say I loved it No, that won t do Although, it seems silly to write a proper review Oh, there are pages of notes stuck in the back some pretension of understanding But this is a book you could devote an entire academic life to Or even be humbled in a group read with readers who know or can track down every clue My thanks to all of you who enriched this read And for letting me tag along I don t know if all group reads are like this I suspect not but my sincere thanks to everyone who participated, even if by a single post A gathering of people that wants to love a book, and does love a book, is why we do this here Never mind the small stuff It s, you know, small stuff Yes, yes, it s about Germany, and Germany s soul But that s easy, isn t it It was the Echo that got to me And the du The reverberations And Mann speaking to me.It is not always, I assure you, so cinematic so cold you can see your breath words that tether Sign here We don t need Tim Burton to sell our souls No The metaphors can be demonic or Devil may care.Where were you when you had a choice Where were you That fork And who spoke to you What shape was the choice, and what shape the advice Was it a pin striped suit behind a desk A rugged jaw A well turned ankle Did a bartender lean over Or was it the kindest smile ever, the person you trusted the most, the one who would never harm you Was it maternal advice Where were you when you sold your soul It looks like, for me anyhow, this novel raisedquestions than it gave answers I like that Even as I toss and turn And ask myself would I have made a different choice Du

  8. Katia N says:

    Now we will throw these mediocre kitchmongers into a slavery, and teach them to venerate the German spirit and to worship the German God This was uttered in 1914 at the beginning of the the first World War By the kitchmongers he means the French and their culture Would you guess who said it It was not Mann, though he was not far behind in the sentiment at that time These words belong to Arnold Schoenberg, the avant garde composer, music genius for some and the scandalous upstart for anoNow we will throw these mediocre kitchmongers into a slavery, and teach them to venerate the German spirit and to worship the German God This was uttered in 1914 at the beginning of the the first World War By the kitchmongers he means the French and their culture Would you guess who said it It was not Mann, though he was not far behind in the sentiment at that time These words belong to Arnold Schoenberg, the avant garde composer, music genius for some and the scandalous upstart for another who would be better off in clearing the snow than in composing , a Jew from Vienna He would change his views later of course later, as many others like him But it would be too late for his country, if not for his music.Schoenberg is not a character in the Mann s novel Though he later thought he was But this German spirit is the character indeed The spirit that has lead the whole nation comprised of many outstanding individuals into a sheer madness and evil The novel s full title isDr Faustus The life of the German composer Adrian Leverkuhn as told by a friend. After reading it, I think a different title would besuitable even if it is less appealingThe life of an average German man Serenus Zeitblom, PhD told through his love to his genius friend while everything dear to him goes through annihilating madnessThough Adrian Leverkuhn plays a huge role in the novel, indeed I think that Serenus isimportant He documents in his sightly awkward, convoluted, but very sincere writing the evolution of a German mind Serenus is not very distinctive, in fact probably very typical, honest, hard working and thinking teacher living in the first half of the last century He possess the strong humanist ideals, he knows and values culture, especially music he loves his country and the land And, during the course of his 60 years, all of this is getting destroyed by the people many of them are not unlike him That leaves him confused, intimidated and lost And, this biography he writes is his attempt to redeem himself, to explain to himself what happened.And yes of course there is the genius friend More than a friend in fact The man whom Sirenus loves with the quiet devotion The man whom he would never dare to imagine as a lover, but whom he loves so dearly The man who Serenus would not be able to safe Adrian writes music Adrian is cold and lonely And any attempt by Adrian to becomehuman leads to a catastrophe But Adrian also is vain, or at least sometimes He thinks he could write the music which would be governed by the principles almost opposite to the all composed before him At the same time his music would contain all this inheritance but in a way that no one would see And he is ready to sacrifice his life to the search for such a music.Adrian is so symbolic with the vanity and unraveling of the German spirit , that initially I thought that he exists only in Serenus imagination I ve changed my mind lately though as Adrian obtainedhumanity with the novel progressing.But I have not introduced the main character yet Because I think the main character of this novel is the music in all its variety While Adrian is learning and composing his masterpieces, Mann is introducing us to this fascinating and complex subject of the Western music of the last few centuries The music possess its own language which I do not know unfortunately That made me struggle with the book and writing this review was a difficult task I ve learned a lot, but I would gain muchfrom the novel if I would know the terms like tonality, chords, harmony, contrapunct and many others What i felt though it is Mann s admiration for the subject and his encyclopaedic knowledge I also know that even Mann has consulted Adorno in writing about the contemporary musical developments But even with my limited knowledge I understood that the music was in a state of existential crisis at fin de siecle, the crisis probably deeper than any other art Music is appeared to be closer to mathematics and even physics the theory of waves So the laws of these disciplines have affected musicThey said that everything which was there to compose pleasant enough and of any value has been composed They also were debating whether music needed to please masses or to be destined for the elite All of these is masterfully entailed in the novel Adrian composes the music which has never actually been composed as far as I know His music supposedly absorbs all the influences and styles in order to destroy them from within But in one chapter, he explains to Serenus the music based on the atonality which broadly coincides with the system really conceived by our old friend Schoenberg Schoenberg was not very happy man and made Mann to add an explanatory note to the end of the book that should reappear in all new editions Coincidently, my edition in English does not have this note while my Russian book does.The novel also probes how far a genius would go for the sake of his art And also where is the border between the geniality and madness That is how Dr Faustus comes to play Adrian is not Faust from Goethe Goethe s Faust has been redeemed by God Adrian is the medieval Dr Faustus from the old initial legend He is ready to get himself sick for life if it would boost his chance of experiencing inspiration He is called in the novel the monk of darkness And he would not be forgiven But his genius supposedly would live in his music The actual pact with the devil here is ambiguous We would never know whether he has actually seen the satan or it was the fist sign of his disease It reminded me a novella by Chekhov The Black Monk where the character finds himself in a very similar situation, but choses the different way out Adrian keeps composing, Chekhov s character is getting cured but both are powerless over the bigger forces driving them over the cliff This is the tragedy of course But not only for Adrian It is the tragedy for Serenus to know for a long time that he would not be able to safe the person he loves and to stay there until the end It is a complex, multilayered novel There are a lot of ideas to digest It is not easy to read However, it is worth persisting I only wish I knewabout music theory I did not mention that it is populated by a lot of interesting characters that add to the drama But it a story for another time.I ve started with Schoenberg, so I will finish with him Leverkuhn is not his alter ego I understood that Adrian is a proper fictional character with many features For example, he receives the financial support from the woman unknown to him like Tchaikovsky did His general prototype, if any, is Nietzsche However, Mann has borrowed a few things from Schoenberg as well Such as for example, Schoenberg went with his students to Graz to listen to performance of Salome by Richard Strauss Adrian in the book said he would go to listen the same opera at the same place but instead visited a prostitute The result of this visit was his fate In his book, The Rest Is Noise Listening to the Twentieth Century that is how Alex Ross described the commotion which happened in a supermarket when Dr Faustus was publishedOne day in 1948 or 1949 a shopping complex in an upscale neighbourhood of Los Angeles, California, was the scene of a slight disturbance that carried overtones of the most spectacular upheaval in 20th century music Marta Feuchtwanger, wife of the emigre novelist Lion Feuchtwanger, was examining grapefruit in the produce section when she heard a voice shouting in German from the far end of the aisle She looked up to see Arnold Schoenberg, the pioneer of atonal music and the codifier of twelve tone composition, bearing down on her, with his bald pate and burning eyes Decades later, in conversation with the writer Lawrence Weschler, Marta could still recall every detail of the encounter, including the weight of the grapefruit in her hand Lies, Frau Marta, lies Schoenberg was yelling You have to know, I never had syphilis

  9. Elena says:

    This is not a beach book The literature on Thomas Mann s Doktor Faustus is huge, and I m glad I didn t try to master it all I tackled the novel actually re reading it after 40 years with an untutored but relatively open mind However, I needed a reading group to get through it, and here goodreads really came through for me with an international group of 14 close readers on the same schedule They helped enormously Thomas Mann wrote his fiction in response to a heartbreaking reality his b This is not a beach book The literature on Thomas Mann s Doktor Faustus is huge, and I m glad I didn t try to master it all I tackled the novel actually re reading it after 40 years with an untutored but relatively open mind However, I needed a reading group to get through it, and here goodreads really came through for me with an international group of 14 close readers on the same schedule They helped enormously Thomas Mann wrote his fiction in response to a heartbreaking reality his beloved Germany committed such atrocious crimes in World War II that, from his exile in the US, he felt obligated to broadcast, in German, into Germany He explained to his compatriots that total defeat was the only honorable way out Germans who secretly listened to his illegal radio broadcasts, as the bombs were demolishing their homes, say they found his message comforting I don t know that an American like me can fully understand.There are a couple naive questions that get asked a lot, and of course don t have answers One is How can the culture that produced Bach and Beethoven also produce Auschwitz A second naive question is Can there be poetry after Auschwitz I think about the novel Doktor Faustus as a response instead of an answer For all the unique aspects of this tragedy, there are other cultures with a similar paradox Japanese artists produced some of the most gentle, peaceful artworks ever created, even as the military of that same culture brutalized their neighbors I think the shorthand for this is the title The Chrysanthemum and the Sword used by Ruth Benedict But Mann himself does not even think of relativizing the catastrophe with comparisons He confronts the good and the bad sides of German genius as something totally intertwined, without trying to distinguish between good Germans and bad Germans as some commentators have done Culture is an interwoven tapestry The Faust legend arose when the invention of the printing press was revolutionizing a society that still believed in devils The sudden access to knowledge was seen as something dangerous That s pretty much biblical too Somehow sex inevitably gets into the mix in all these myths Mann expects his readers to be familiar with Goethe s take on the Faustian pact, but he doesn t reference it directly Since music has served as a source of great national pride for Germany, starting long before the country actually existed as a unified nation state, Mann revises the deal with the devil The brilliant composer Adrian Leverkuehn trades his soul, not for knowledge, not for happiness, but for musical talent, specifically talent for composing modern music The genius is undeniably powerful, but it destroys his soul What a metaphor for the political and human disaster But this theme is also an opening for Mann to introduce a cluster of colorful characters who discuss music in great detail, all about polyphony and counterpoint and twelve tone composition.These discussions somehow lift the text out of the swamp Mann s richly detailed story, drenched in quirky irony, becomes oddly comforting It s pretty much impossible to explain The book is long It is narrated by a fuddy duddy friend of the composer, with the nutty name of Serenus Zeitblom Mann has a lot of fun with his long winded narrator The chapters shift radically from one mood to another, like movements in a symphonic piece of music Themes and images, like the butterfly and the little mermaid, are introduced early on, then dropped, only to reappear hundreds of pages later in unexpected variations, a verbal Wagnerian Leitmotiv effect Adrian s communications with Lucifer are completely logically explained by his medical and psychiatric conditions But the highly ornate way Mann presents it all with fleeting images that appear and disappear, and with shifting moods seduces the readers into his dangerous world And everyone s soul is in danger Without the lengthy build up, I don t think the book would work at all Adrian comes from a farm, where his life begins and ends His musical talent comes from his beautiful mother, but she is wise enough not to develop her talent His other introduction to music comes from the simple milkmaid, who teaches the country children charming folk songs, including a hauntingly beautiful round After selling his soul, he finds a refuge on a monastery turned farm estate, where he rents an elegant studio from the generous farmer s wife And there he writes amazing music that goes out into the world These two farms are the real Germany, the source When Adrian has his final nervous breakdown in front of a gathering of friends, the noble farmer s wife, Frau Schweigestill, comforts him and sends the guests away, because they like me could never understand Haneke s film Das weisse Band, addresses the question of collective guilt among the peasantry in a relentlessly depressing way Mann s take is totally different, andnuanced Something indigenous, that is beautiful and magical, has a dangerous internal logicI don t think Mann asks us to read this as a universal, but that is how I read it We Americans need to deal with certain aspects of our culture and its internal logicThe other simplistic question, the one about poetry after Auschwitz, is implicit in these discussions Mann s close friend and adviser on the book, Adorno, famously examined this issue I see Mann s response in the poetic passages of his writing I think poetry may be the only way to come to terms with some aspects of human history, think of Paul Celan or Nelly Sachs Myself, I m not so sure whether other arts like music, painting, or architecture ever recovered from the brutalization of the 20th century The poetry in Mann s prose emerges very slowly, in baroque sentences and page long paragraphs Like an unfolding flower, you just can t rush it I went to a Buddhist mediation class where we sat on the floor for four hours chanting and visualizing a lotus slowly blossoming At the end I felt like I was levitating I asked afterward if there might be aefficient method that we could do in say 20 minutes Nope Mann s way with words gradually lifts off the ground Aconcise reading exercise could not build the same spell This all by way of partly explaining why a novel about such a horrifying history can be oddly beautiful I will never really understand, of course, but language can in itself be comforting

  10. Jonathan says:

    This is my third read of this novel, though my first with this translation It is a little like that scene in teen movies where the already beautiful awkward girl descends the stairs post make over, allowing one to see with glaring clarity the gorgeousness that was always already there So, because it amuses me, and in an effort to overdo an already rather rubbish analogy, on the left, ladies and gents, we have H T Lowe Porter s version of the novel, on the right that of Mr Woods Although This is my third read of this novel, though my first with this translation It is a little like that scene in teen movies where the already beautiful awkward girl descends the stairs post make over, allowing one to see with glaring clarity the gorgeousness that was always already there So, because it amuses me, and in an effort to overdo an already rather rubbish analogy, on the left, ladies and gents, we have H T Lowe Porter s version of the novel, on the right that of Mr Woods Although, looking at this picture, I personally prefer the pre makeover look, so should, in fact, delete this whole portion of this meview as being entirely stupid, but frankly, after having to google an appropriate picture to put in here, I can t be bothered So there Perhaps one of my favorite things in this extraordinary novel is the way it, with kindness and subtlety, deals with the gay love triangle at its heart I call it a triangle though Adri s feelings for both our narrator and Rudolf is hard to ascertain through the jealous fog of the narrator s recounting he may be closer to asexual than anything else To have our untrustworthy story teller be in love with his subject in a manner he can never admit to himself, adds onefascinating layer to the many many layers of themes at play While I have my issues with Adorno, curmudgeony old conservative that he was, he helped Mann produce an extraordinarily complex piece of work His influence certainly adds a rigour and philosophical depth to the novel that is rare in fiction I have just ordered this Thomas Mann Theodor W Adorno An Exchange which looks great, and with a great intro too Thomas Mann, from his 1930 speech which was, as one would expect, protested and interrupted by S.A men sent by Goebbels for precisely that purpose, and which I paste here just because it reminds me why I love the guy, and feel fitting for our current political climate Der exzentrischen Seelenlage einer der Idee entlaufenen Menschheit entspricht eine Politik im Groteskstil mit Heilsarmee All ren, Massenkrampf, Budengel ut, Halleluja und derwischm igem Wiederholen monotoner Schlagworte, bis alles Schaum vor dem Munde hat Fanatismus wird Heilsprinzip, Begeisterung epileptische Ekstase, Politik wird zum Massenopiat des Dritten Reiches oder einer proletarischen Eschatologie, und die Vernunft verh llt ihr Antlitz This fantastic state of mind, of a humanity that has outrun its ideas, is matched by a political scene in the grotesque style, with Salvation Army methods, hallelujahs and bell ringing and dervishlike repetition of monotonous catchwords, until everybody foams at the mouth Fanaticism turns into a means of salvation, enthusiasm into epileptic ecstasy, politics becomes an opiate for the masses, a proletarian eschatology and reason veils her faceAnyone read a good bio of Mann Seems like there are a few out there, but I can t seem to find much consensus about which is best

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