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Old 07-18-2013, 11:42 PM   #16
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Congrats!


I hope to get it early next week, and then will try to catch up with the rest of you.
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Old 07-19-2013, 09:22 AM   #17
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I dug out my old paperback Lowe-Porter edition, and if anyone's curious, here are two comparisons from the very beginning of the book.

Quote:
"And--And--What comes next?"
"Oh, yes, yes, what the dickens does come next? C'est la question, ma très chère demoiselle!"
v:

Quote:
"What does this mean--What--does this mean...."
"Well, now, deuce take it, c'est la question, ma très chère demoiselle!"
and

Quote:
One could be sure of a good square meal at the Buddenbrooks'.
v.

Quote:
one could reckon with a nourishnig snack at the Buddenbrooks'.
Spoiler:
The first in each pair is from the Lowe-Porter translation.


I can't answer to which is more "accurate", of course, although that's as much art as precision, but I know which tends more to keep me in the mood.

I'm just over halfway through. So far, I'm struck that the structure is more a sequence of vignettes, or set pieces, rather than having a strong narrative flow. Two of the most memorable so far came in sequence, the hilarious revolution scene immediately followed by the powerful scene with Tony, her father and her husband.

The sense of vignettes is heightened by the characters of Tony and Christian, both of whom seem to be self-conscious actors in their personal dramas. Mann adds to this effect by his exhaustive descriptions of people and places, as if he's consciously setting a stage and casting roles. I have never read so many varied descriptions of whiskers!

That relates to me with what seems to be the major flaw. It's one thing to give detailed physical descriptions, but I wish Mann didn't verbalize some characters' thoughts to the extent he does. Tom's thoughts at his uncle's deathbed, for example, which I think could have been left to be inferred. We already knew that he dumped his own shopgirl, and surely we knew why. Or Tony's thoughts about accepting Permaneder; given what a buffoon he was we know she wouldn't have accepted him if she wasn't desperate.

Mann telegraphs a little too much, too. It was obvious that the creepy and insistent Grünlich had a not-so-hidden agenda and that the marriage would end badly; emphasizing that he wouldn't let Tony live in town or have a carriage were overkill. A little more subtlety allowing for a modicum of uncertainty would be a good thing.

And, oh, a translation issue! Permaneder talking Texan! Oy!
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Old 07-20-2013, 07:24 AM   #18
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I love the international membership of this book club. I just came up for checking out the Thomas Mann translation from FLP so will go with that starting today.
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Old 07-20-2013, 07:44 AM   #19
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I love the international membership of this book club.
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Old 07-20-2013, 11:42 AM   #20
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Mann telegraphs a little too much, too. It was obvious that the creepy and insistent Grünlich had a not-so-hidden agenda and that the marriage would end badly; emphasizing that he wouldn't let Tony live in town or have a carriage were overkill. A little more subtlety allowing for a modicum of uncertainty would be a good thing.
completely and totally agree - there isn't much of a narrative tension in the book, and I am hopeful that we are getting snippets of a larger canvas. For the moment (beginning part V) I have to say I am a little disappointed: the contrast with The Magic Mountain couldn't be greater.
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Old 07-20-2013, 12:02 PM   #21
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completely and totally agree - there isn't much of a narrative tension in the book, and I am hopeful that we are getting snippets of a larger canvas. For the moment (beginning part V) I have to say I am a little disappointed: the contrast with The Magic Mountain couldn't be greater.
Paola, I've been struck all along by how our opinions and reactions dovetail. I, too, recalled it as a great read, or a page-turner as you described it. This time through, I'm finding it pretty labored and turgid. Certainly not the stuff of a Nobel Prize. Interesting enough that I can persevere (although I took a break yesterday), and I'm hopeful, but not confident, of a payoff. It strikes me as more and more unlikely; I think the trajectory is pretty obvious and exactly what we were led to expect in the first chapter. It'll just be more of the same.

The most interesting aspect is what can be inferred about upper middle class German life and the social, economic and political tensions leading up to unification.
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Old 07-20-2013, 12:11 PM   #22
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At first I thought I'd probably be getting the newer translation but with these excellent posts on the translation differences, it's making it difficult to decide.

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I hope to get it early next week, and then will try to catch up with the rest of you.
Glad you got the book! You're not alone by the way, I'm also hoping to start it within the week.
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Old 07-20-2013, 05:06 PM   #23
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Certainly not the stuff of a Nobel Prize.
Buddenbrooks saw it's first printing in 1901 and it was Mann's first large publication. Mann received the Nobel Price in 1929 and it was said that he received the Nobel Price for this book in the Citation by the Nobel Committee.

But Mann was famous for quite different works then. Tonio Kröger, 1903. Death in Venice, 1912. The Magic Mountain, 1924.

I think it's quite obvious that the Nobel Committee claimed that Mann got the Nobel Price for Buddenbrooks to avoid any discussion about the nature of Mann's more recent works.

When Hermann Hesse got the Nobel Price in 1946, he received it for his complete works, like most people do. It's really rare that an author receives the Nobel Price just for a single work. Mann is an exception here, and Buddenbrooks is an exception within Mann's works since it's a book that describes events that a reader of Mann's later works might find boring.
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Old 07-20-2013, 07:34 PM   #24
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That's interesting, medard. I certainly had the impression that the Nobel Prize for Literature was for a body of work rather than for an individual book. Too much about beautiful young boys in the later works perhaps? I have only read Death in Venice and don't know the others.
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Old 07-21-2013, 06:36 AM   #25
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The Magic Montain is about the maturation of a dumb adolescent..

Death in Venice is an excetion just like Buddenbrooks is, but in another direction. The book is not about this young guy but about the combination of death, unfulfilled desire and creativity within the artist's mind. Gustav von Aschenbach is the main protagonist there, not Tadzio. Tadzio is just someone that represents the platonic idea of beauty.

And we should keep in mind that Mann wrote again very diffent works after he received the Nobel Price, he wrote Joseph and His Brothers about a mythological topic for 16 years; Lotte in Weimar: The Beloved Returns, 1939, as a response to Goethe's 'The Sorrows of Young Werther'; and Doctor Faustus, 1946, as a late novel about art, syphilis and modern music.

Just like with Nietzsche, Goethe or Picasso there are very diffent stages within the works of Thomas Mann with their own specific topics and artistic styles. There is no single work that represents Thomas Mann as an artist.
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Old 07-21-2013, 08:39 AM   #26
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Thanks, medard. I was wondering just what you meant about avoiding discussion about the nature of Mann's later works.
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Old 07-21-2013, 09:57 AM   #27
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I was being tongue-in-cheek when I said Buddenbrooks wasn't Nobel-worthy. First there are the many laureates whose work seems pedestrian to unreadable today, so it's not a major hurdle. Galsworthy, whom I've mentioned in this thread, is just one example of a writer who is high middle-brow and certainly not tinged with greatness. A good read, a phrase that also has occured in this thread. It's just peculiar that a Nobelist would be singled out for a book that was published when he was a stripling of 26!

Then there's the political aspect, where indisputably great authors such as Nabokov are overlooked, while someone from a region the committee wishes to reward gets picked. My guess is that this is key to the Buddenbrooks issue. I suspect Mann's award was seen as part of the rehabilitation of Germany's reputation in the post Great War years. By focusing on Buddenbrooks, the committee could emphasize the essential greatness of Germany as a political entity and honor it for its achievement in unification which takes place as the backdrop (not knowing the extent to which that would be invoked, alas) at that same time it downplayed Mann's more decadent and perhaps controversial works. Having it both ways and actually I applaud them, because Mann really was Nobel-worthy, if not for his rather callow early novel.
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Old 07-21-2013, 11:05 AM   #28
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Sorry to intrude, just wanted to throw in a bit of historical facts:

In July 1929 Hugenberg and Hitler formed National Committee for a Referendum against the Young Plan.

Thomas Mann was already then known for his anti-Nazi stance.
Nobel Literature Prize, correct me if I am wrong, was announced in October 1929.

Referendum aiming at introducing Law against the Enslavement of the German People (renouncing the Treaty of Versailles and forbidding cooperation in collecting reparations) was held in December 1929 (low turnout, high approval rate, not successful).

If at all Nobel prize was political (and people in the know say the literature one is on surprisingly not that few occasions), my bet would be on the anti-nazism of Thomas Mann.

As for literature of Thomass Mann, I would agree with Medard
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There is no single work that represents Thomas Mann as an artist.
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Old 07-21-2013, 02:01 PM   #29
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I never though about the political aspect. That's a good point indeed.

Even after Word War II Thomas Mann got critized for his strict anti-fascist position. German communists and socialists claimed that they're the only ones with 'the right' to be anti-fascists. Thomas Mann received the Goethe Prize of Frankfurt in 1949 and he was called a traitor in some daily papers. Although the war against Hitler was won, Germany was not his home anymore. Same with Hermann Hesse.
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Old 07-22-2013, 12:55 AM   #30
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I'm reading the Woods translation. The first few chapters were awkward, especially that opening sentence! However, it doesn't take long to get into the flow of the story without too many more jarring descriptions.

I am up to Part 5 now so about 1/3 through. I agree with issybird and paola. My biggest complaint has got to be the heavy foreshadowing. He is constantly telling you what's going to happen next which takes the suspense out. It's quite direct and not even subtle.

When I first started reading, my impression was that it was like staging acts of a play especially with the detailed description of clothing, settings, characters, etc. One certainly does grow weary of so much detail about whiskers, teeth, hair, hands, faces, etc. On the other hand, I do enjoy details about the scenes as you feel like you could be right there with the characters, especially the beach scenes in Travemünde.

There is so much detail that I am keeping separate notes with this book which is not typical practice for me. Usually I just highlight and annotate within the book. I have focused on keeping a character map and a chronology of significant events. I am up to 5 pages so far! I keep wondering if most of these characters are going to show up in later scenes or could much of this information have been edited out without much detriment to the book. Why go through so much detail if it's not going to be part of the greater canvas?
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