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Old 07-11-2013, 01:09 PM   #1
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Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann

This is the MR Literary Club selection for July 2013. Whether you've already read it or would like to, feel free to start or join in the conversation at any time! Guests are also always welcome.


Some ebook availability-
Amazon Canada
Amazon US
Blackwell's UK
Inkmesh search (some may be in German)

Some pbook availability-
Amazon UK
Random House UK
Waterstones UK
WH Smith UK
Bookworld Australia
Dymocks Australia
Fishpond Australia


So, what are your thoughts on it?


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Old 07-11-2013, 04:13 PM   #2
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just thought I'd add this brief link discussing the two translations:
http://www.editoreric.com/greatlit/t...denbrooks.html
it reports the opening and closing, so watch out, of the two translations.
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Old 07-11-2013, 09:32 PM   #3
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just thought I'd add this brief link discussing the two translations:
http://www.editoreric.com/greatlit/t...denbrooks.html
it reports the opening and closing, so watch out, of the two translations.
Thanks for that. I am embarrassed to admit that Buddenbrooks will first book by Thomas Mann that I will have read. So I sho' nuff am glad that I will be able to get the Woods translation as an ebook from Overdrive.
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Old 07-14-2013, 10:07 PM   #4
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I'm slogging through this and have to admit that the odd dialects are jarring. Part of this is my own bias, since most Victorian books/movies I've been exposed are exclusively upper crust. It does come into play in the story with one of the characters and his ability to fit into the society that the Buddenbrooks inhabit, so I can see the necessity.
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Old 07-15-2013, 03:34 AM   #5
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I'm slogging through this and have to admit that the odd dialects are jarring. Part of this is my own bias, since most Victorian books/movies I've been exposed are exclusively upper crust. It does come into play in the story with one of the characters and his ability to fit into the society that the Buddenbrooks inhabit, so I can see the necessity.
which version are you reading? I have found the Woods translation, too, and I have to say it is quite different from Lowe-Porter: it seems to be adding more "colour", nevertheless I find both versions very legible (I'll have to choose one though! ) - but perhaps you are reading it in the original version?
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Old 07-15-2013, 02:13 PM   #6
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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 02:39 PM.
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Old 07-15-2013, 07:08 PM   #7
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But we enjoy watching your brain work!

I'm away for a couple of days and will be scouring the secondhand bookshops (some quite good ones) where we are going.
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Old 07-15-2013, 08:22 PM   #8
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which version are you reading? I have found the Woods translation, too, and I have to say it is quite different from Lowe-Porter: it seems to be adding more "colour", nevertheless I find both versions very legible (I'll have to choose one though! ) - but perhaps you are reading it in the original version?
More and more I can make an argument for Lowe-Porter; after all, she worked in collaboration with Mann for many years on her translations of his work. When it comes to the ancients, you can't get too modern for me, but with a work that's relatively recent, I'm not sure we're not better off with a translation of its time as having more of the flavor of the original.

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I'm away for a couple of days and will be scouring the secondhand bookshops (some quite good ones) where we are going.
Have fun!
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Old 07-16-2013, 04:16 PM   #9
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More and more I can make an argument for Lowe-Porter; after all, she worked in collaboration with Mann for many years on her translations of his work. When it comes to the ancients, you can't get too modern for me, but with a work that's relatively recent, I'm not sure we're not better off with a translation of its time as having more of the flavor of the original.
Have fun!
issybird, I regret to say that I think you are right, where the regret comes from returning the Lowe-Porter to the library before leaving for some travel, as they had only one copy and I was afraid they would recall it. I am only at Part III, but it feels somehow too "hip". Not sure whether I want to read both translations,
but I think once I touch base again I'll have comparisons here and there.
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Old 07-17-2013, 04:15 PM   #10
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I'm slogging through this and have to admit that the odd dialects are jarring. Part of this is my own bias, since most Victorian books/movies I've been exposed are exclusively upper crust. It does come into play in the story with one of the characters and his ability to fit into the society that the Buddenbrooks inhabit, so I can see the necessity.
Are you talking about Johann Buddenbrooks, the head of the family? I have just started the book and until now only found one usage of dialects but this had nothing to do with "fit into the society" or some social classes. What Johann is speaking is "plattdeutsch", a dialect typical for northern Germany. It is "very" dialect - there are many words in plattdeutsch that have only a small resemblence to their German counterparts (maybe deserblues understands it quite well). I guess it should demonstrate how "local" he is whereas his usage of French should demonstrate how "worldly" he is at the same time.
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Old 07-17-2013, 05:21 PM   #11
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(...) What Johann is speaking is "plattdeutsch", a dialect typical for northern Germany. It is "very" dialect - there are many words in plattdeutsch that have only a small resemblence to their German counterparts (maybe deserblues understands it quite well). I guess it should demonstrate how "local" he is whereas his usage of French should demonstrate how "worldly" he is at the same time.
Hmm, would that resemble Schwyzerdütsch, Scweizerdeutsch ( Swiss German)? I know when I worked in Switzerland that my German colleagues had serious problems understanding this variation ( don't let the Swiss hear this) of the German language.
Or would it resemble the dialect of the north of the Netherlands? I lived there as a child.

Anyway, I'll be reading, if I can get to it this month, the free German version.

Last edited by desertblues; 07-17-2013 at 05:24 PM. Reason: Two(2)grammatical errors = creative, living language?
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Old 07-17-2013, 11:10 PM   #12
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which version are you reading? I have found the Woods translation, too, and I have to say it is quite different from Lowe-Porter: it seems to be adding more "colour", nevertheless I find both versions very legible (I'll have to choose one though! ) - but perhaps you are reading it in the original version?
I read the Woods translation.

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Are you talking about Johann Buddenbrooks, the head of the family? I have just started the book and until now only found one usage of dialects but this had nothing to do with "fit into the society" or some social classes. What Johann is speaking is "plattdeutsch", a dialect typical for northern Germany. It is "very" dialect - there are many words in plattdeutsch that have only a small resemblence to their German counterparts (maybe deserblues understands it quite well). I guess it should demonstrate how "local" he is whereas his usage of French should demonstrate how "worldly" he is at the same time.
No, not Johann, late in the book Tony has a love interest who is from a different part of the country. The other odd dialogue bits were from lower class characters that Johann interacts with occasionally.
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Old 07-18-2013, 02:34 AM   #13
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I'm not that advanced in the book but there are many dialects in Germany. I can only imagine they were more pronounced at the time Thomas Mann wrote this book. I remember Schwebisch (from the Constance lake? = Bodensee) which is even worse than the usual Swiss German. Even when those people tried to speak High German, so that I could understand, the words they used and how they phrased things was indeed strange...

I need to install a German dictionary on my reader before I go any further, I fear I'm missing too much from the descriptions without it...
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Old 07-18-2013, 07:45 AM   #14
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Hooray! I just managed to get a secondhand copy of the Lowe-Porter translation which I should receive in the next few days. Thanks for your comments, issybird and paola, which gave me confidence in that original translation rather than the more recent Woods one, as that is what I'm getting.
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Old 07-18-2013, 08:44 AM   #15
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Hooray! I just managed to get a secondhand copy of the Lowe-Porter translation which I should receive in the next few days. Thanks for your comments, issybird and paola, which gave me confidence in that original translation rather than the more recent Woods one, as that is what I'm getting.
Congrats!
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