I've barely started, but can see how Mann is laying the groundwork for his tale. The significant differences in dress, politics and religion between the oldest and the next generation speak to a seismic shift between the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Age (I had to snicker at one character's being named Jean-Jacques, no doubt by "enlightened" parents). And the reference to the previous owners of the Buddenbrooks' new house and their decline and fall is rather heavy-handed.
I'm reading Woods but may take a look around and see if I can find my old paperback of Lowe-Porter, as some of the translations seem a little off to me. I've never seen a reference to leg of mutton sleeves in a man's coat before, for example, and Gotthold is clearly Jean's half-brother, not his stepbrother. There's probably no good solution to rendering various character's peculiarities in German pronunciation, however.
ETA: It occurs to me that the initial scene in this book--the Victorian family gathering of the generations over a stodgy meal--is virtually identical to the opening of Man of Property, the first novel of Galsworthy's Forsyte Saga, although set close to 50 years later (going by memory here). Man of Property, I see, was published a few years after Buddenbrooks, but the Lowe-Porter translation didn't come out for another two decades. Did Galsworthy read German, was it coincidence, or just part of the zeitgeist? In any case, the Nobel committee seems to like hearty eating.
ETA2: Of course a big meal is a handy device for introducing a big cast of characters, sigh. Not very creative.
ETA3: On further reflection, this isn't quite Victorian yet, but the waning years of William IV. Victoria ascended in 1837.
I need to compose my thoughts first, clearly, instead of typing in odd moments!
Last edited by issybird; 07-15-2013 at 03:39 PM.