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Old 07-25-2013, 05:19 PM   #61
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Same in German, the full title is Buddenbrooks: Verfall einer Familie and that's just the same as Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family.

While I double-checked that on Wikipedia I found a picture of Thomas Mann from 1900, the time he wrote Buddenbrooks. Might be interesting because most pictures are usually taken arround 1940 - 50 when he was much older.

I often wondered how Thomas Mann looked at the age of 25, and here's the answer:

Spoiler:


Danke fürs Photo....
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Old 07-26-2013, 11:37 AM   #62
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I finally got hold of a copy. I'll have to concentrate on reading it, and to that end, I'll follow the discussion as it will provide areas of interest. I'll post as soon as I get a handle on the novel . So far, judging by the comments, it seems more interesting than I originally suspected.
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Old 07-26-2013, 12:05 PM   #63
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Did you know that Thomas Mann was actually American? I was surprised to find that out in NYTimes Obituary http://www.nytimes.com/learning/gene...bday/0606.html
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The author's seventieth birthday was marked in June, 1945, by a dinner in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Prominent Americans eulogized him while the author himself turned his address of thanks into tribute to the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In an editorial, "Thomas Mann, American," The New York Times said upon the occasion:

"Thomas Mann knew well where freedom lay; he had the courage to make his choice and gave his full allegiance to this new land."
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Old 07-26-2013, 01:02 PM   #64
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Did you know that Thomas Mann was actually American? I was surprised to find that out in NYTimes Obituary http://www.nytimes.com/learning/gene...bday/0606.html
It's important and depressing to add, however, that the McCarthy period drove Mann back to Europe and he spent the remainder of his life in Switzerland, as he wouldn't return to Germany.
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Old 07-27-2013, 12:42 AM   #65
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OK - just passed the halfway point. It's been quite interesting so far, but I'm not sure where I sit in relation to this family.

I liked the father and his quiet dignity, his equanimity and his faithful pursuit of industry. I didn't find him adventurous or bold and his conservative nature didn't push the Buddenbrook name far ahead like the rival family that was prepared to take a few risks.

The son, Thomas, reminds me a little of a future president. Where his father spoke to the common man in a way that made me feel he was totally comfortable in where everyone sat without necessarily being supercilious, I feel Thomas is playing a role. Everything is a means to an end - he's going somewhere better and he knows it. As I'm only halfway through I'm not sure if Mann is going to indicate that this was a major contribution to the family's downfall or not.

Tony is quite interesting. In a way she is right when she says that she is a victim, although second time around in the marriage game I think less so. Everything is a bit of a disaster, but I'm not sure I can hold it that much against her. She understood what her duty was and that her marriage was her means to bring honour to the family name/firm. If I look at her story from a modern standpoint, it becomes a cautionary tale about the importance of looking beyond the periphery aspects of a match and actually understand the "who". In her first marriage all her instincts were correct and she succumbed to the pressure of her family's expectations. I agree with her father that he was largely to blame for this error. But for the second marriage, there's not much discussion of what she actually thought about the suitor from Munich. This left me feeling that she perhaps didn't have as much to say about him as a person and was eager only to right a wrong for her family's honour.

Christian, I just see as a buffoon. I was actually hoping he would contract some horrible illness that would end him and get him out of everyone's hair. I'm still not sure how he's going to play in the downfall, but it looks like his complete lack of discipline while craving an independence he doesn't deserve is going to be a strong factor. I wonder how much being the second son impacted his development. Limited expectation, forever in Tom's shadow. Could it have helped in this rather passive rebellion?

I guess I'll find out more as I progress. I'm enjoying the translation and the attempt to also translate the dialect and slang into appropriate English lingo, but at the same time it does seem a bit weird. I start to feel that I'm reading an English rather than a German novel. Is anyone else feeling this?
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Old 07-27-2013, 08:08 AM   #66
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A quick hello from Sydney where I'm in the midst of a family reunion, so not getting much reading done. I'm a bit under a quarter of the way through at this stage.

First main impression is that Tom, Christian and Tony all seem to be spoiled brats when we see them as children. Now I'm with Tony just as her holiday by the sea has finished.

Was anyone else reminded of The American Senator with the pressure on the young woman to marry someone she didn't want to marry? Obviously a common occurrence among certain classes in that time in more than one country, and a pretty grim prospect to contemplate. Thank goodness for being able to be my own person!

Great to hear that you can join in too, fantasyfan.
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Old 07-27-2013, 12:17 PM   #67
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So about half way through Part Eight now . . . (warning for potential spoilers for those not at that point yet)

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Originally Posted by caleb72 View Post
I guess I'll find out more as I progress. I'm enjoying the translation and the attempt to also translate the dialect and slang into appropriate English lingo, but at the same time it does seem a bit weird. I start to feel that I'm reading an English rather than a German novel. Is anyone else feeling this?
I was feeling all right with the Woods translation until I 'met' Herr Permaneder. Speaks something like Huckleberry Finn. When I was finishing graduate school (about 1985) I spent three months at a university in Munich (Technische Universität München). I did not (and do not) read or speak any German, I was just there because of the research topic for my dissertation. However, in the Chemistry Department there were graduate students from all over Germany, as well as a German speaking post-doctoral fellow from Mexico. All seemed to be able to converse amongst themselves without problem. Perhaps there would have been greater variation in dialect in the 19th Century? I was also told that the Bavarian dialect was very close to the German spoken in Austria. It was interesting to read in this book about how Bavaria was overwhelmingly Catholic. When at the university in Munich I recall one of the graduate students telling me that because of this Catholic background Bavaria had more holidays than any other part of Germany. Certainly it seemed like every week or two I would show up in the morning and there would be no one there. The next day I would be informed that yesterday had been Saint Slackoff Day, or something like that. I wonder if at the time of this book Bavarians were really looked upon as lazy hicks by those in Northern Germany?

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Tony is quite interesting. In a way she is right when she says that she is a victim, although second time around in the marriage game I think less so. Everything is a bit of a disaster, but I'm not sure I can hold it that much against her. She understood what her duty was and that her marriage was her means to bring honour to the family name/firm. If I look at her story from a modern standpoint, it becomes a cautionary tale about the importance of looking beyond the periphery aspects of a match and actually understand the "who". In her first marriage all her instincts were correct and she succumbed to the pressure of her family's expectations. I agree with her father that he was largely to blame for this error. But for the second marriage, there's not much discussion of what she actually thought about the suitor from Munich. This left me feeling that she perhaps didn't have as much to say about him as a person and was eager only to right a wrong for her family's honour.

It seems to me that, while it was unfortunate that Tony was pushed by her father into marriage with Grünlich, she was never going to be happy in any marriage for how high her nose was always in the air. Even her first love Doctor Morten would never have been able to provide her a lifestyle that was “elegant” enough to meet her expectations.

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Christian, I just see as a buffoon. I was actually hoping he would contract some horrible illness that would end him and get him out of everyone's hair. I'm still not sure how he's going to play in the downfall, but it looks like his complete lack of discipline while craving an independence he doesn't deserve is going to be a strong factor. I wonder how much being the second son impacted his development. Limited expectation, forever in Tom's shadow. Could it have helped in this rather passive rebellion?
Yes, Christian is a hopeless drag on the family, seemingly interested in nothing but leading a life of entertaining leisure. It is also no help that from an early age he was a hopeless hypochondriac.

I find the occasional mentions of “poor Klothilde” (she seems always to be mentioned with that modifier, that or hungry) odd, as if the character is there for comic relief. Her one role seems to be to consume mass quantities of nourishment.

Last edited by Hamlet53; 07-27-2013 at 12:40 PM.
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Old 07-28-2013, 09:09 AM   #68
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Yes, Christian is a hopeless drag on the family, seemingly interested in nothing but leading a life of entertaining leisure. It is also no help that from an early age he was a hopeless hypochondriac.

I find the occasional mentions of “poor Klothilde” (she seems always to be mentioned with that modifier, that or hungry) odd, as if the character is there for comic relief. Her one role seems to be to consume mass quantities of nourishment.
For me, "poor Klothilde" of the gaunt appearance despite the gargantuan appetite, was a very klunky metaphor to say that extravagant living does not fill spiritual emptiness.

This to me is the real flaw of the book. Great and powerful scenes such as the "revolution" and Johann's confrontation with Grünlich, but interspersed with far too many instances of overwriting and overkill.

Klothilde at least wasn't meant to be anything but a one note character, though. I have real problems with both Christian and Gerda. Christian as he evolved into a dissolute, dissipated and depressed drag on the family was entirely credible. However, in his early years, when he was supposed to be so charming and entertaining, it was a case of "show me, don't tell me." Mann was fine when depicting how Christian would gross out his fellow diners, say, but not in showing his amusing side. At least with Tony we got some laughs, with her deeply felt groans of "Grünlich!"

As for Gerda, she's an enigma. Whyever did she marry Thomas? There's no good explanation for that. She had no need to marry, Thomas didn't share her interests, and she spent the book sitting in a corner watching the family and not participating. It's a little surprising that Mann didn't use her thoughts as a mouthpiece for his own commentary, although I'm relieved he didn't. Too much of that going on already!
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Old 07-28-2013, 12:11 PM   #69
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I may be totally wrong but maybe these problems you mention result from the "hybrid nature" of this book as a fiction and a family biography. Mann seems to have taken every freedom with all persons that do not belong to his family but perhaps he was quite honest about the family members and didn't invent too much into them. But I really don't know, this was just an idea.
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Old 07-28-2013, 03:58 PM   #70
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I am at page 500 now and only lately I remembered having read this book a long time ago. I do feel myself plodding along now.
All is going to waste in this family; morals and economics. Perhaps comparable to the situation in Germany in the 20ies and 30ies; although the book was written before that time.
Thomas Buddenbrooks speaks rather nasty about the Jewish people in p.466/470 of the Gutenberg version. There had been for centuries a more or less accepted anti-Semitism in East and Central Europe.

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Old 07-29-2013, 03:14 AM   #71
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I'm also just past the 500 page mark myself. It's interesting to watch how Thomas Buddenbrook is slowly defeating himself.

Do you think that it's deliberate that the consul is always called Johann except for Thomas? I noticed it when the 100 year anniversary plaque was presented.

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Old 07-29-2013, 07:25 AM   #72
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I'm not nearly as far along as most of you. But just yesterday I ran across “Province, Nation, and Empire in Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks” published in German Studies Review, Oct. 2006 by Todd Kontje, University of California. The abstract gives a good summary of the main lines of thought in the piece:

Buddenbrooks depicts the decline of the Hanseatic city-state . . . and the rise of the German National-state . . . . Buddenbrooks also reflects the development of global trade and overseas colonies, particularly in the trans-Atlantic realm. Mann’s novel . . . thus engages the panoply of fears that accompanied the process of German nationalization in an age of empire, including anxiety about the collapse of traditional social hierarchies, the inversion of gender roles, and the danger of racial contamination.”

Kontje states that Mann was not an Empire writer in the style of Kipling, Conrad or Forster, but that he still was influenced by “the events and ideas of the Age of Empire to a greater extent than is generally acknowledged . . . .”

As I stated at the beginning, I still am not very far into the novel, but my usual approach (and naturally everyone has his or her own preferred method} is to try to isolate thematic movements in the work. So perhaps the three basic themes in the abstract give some over-arching directions of analysis to examine {whether or not they are as relevant as Kontje thinks}. Sometimes, in fact, disagreement can be a quite rewarding process.

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Old 07-29-2013, 01:33 PM   #73
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Thanks for the background information, fantasyfan! I am almost 70% complete now. I feel as if I don't know enough about the historical context to fully appreciate the book.
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Old 07-29-2013, 06:24 PM   #74
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[QUOTE=fantasyfan;2581122]I'm not nearly as far along as most of you. But just yesterday I ran across “Province, Nation, and Empire in Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks” published in German Studies Review, Oct. 2006 by Todd Kontje, University of California. The abstract gives a good summary of the main lines of thought in the piece:

Buddenbrooks depicts the decline of the Hanseatic city-state . . . and the rise of the German National-state . . . . Buddenbrooks also reflects the development of global trade and overseas colonies, particularly in the trans-Atlantic realm. Mann’s novel . . . thus engages the panoply of fears that accompanied the process of German nationalization in an age of empire, including anxiety about the collapse of traditional social hierarchies, the inversion of gender roles, and the danger of racial contamination.”


Thanks a lot for that background Fantasyfan. I did in fact see a lot of that in Buddenbrooks.
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Old 07-30-2013, 03:31 AM   #75
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@Hamlet53

Dialects in Germany are still very strong and may not be mutually intelligible. It's easy to be fooled when meeting students because all education is given in "High German" (Hoch Deutsch) and they have to speak it at school. Same as in China: education is in Mandarin so everyone who is still studying can speak it, doesn't mean they don't speak something else at home. Come back 5 years later, they don't remember it...

I met Germans from the Constace Lake (Bodensee) who spoke Schwebish. I never understood what they say to another. Only kids could speak "High German", which I understood... Same with my host family: the father was from Thuringia (Thüringen). It took me months to understand him properly. I guess it must have been even worse in the early 1900s because schooling probably wasn't done in "High German".

I'm still at the beginning of the book, going very slowly because the German version available at the Gutenberg project doesn't contain any note (not even for dialects) and the German dictionary on the Kobo is a beginner dictionary: if I don't know a word, the dictionary doesn't either ^^.
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