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Download Doktor Faustus ( Frankfurter Ausgabe). epub

by Thomas Mann

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Download Doktor Faustus ( Frankfurter Ausgabe). epub
ISBN: 3100482204
ISBN13: 978-3100482204
Category: No category
Author: Thomas Mann
Language: German
Publisher: Fischer (S.), Frankfurt (January 1, 1980)
Pages: 746 pages
ePUB size: 1766 kb
FB2 size: 1745 kb
Rating: 4.3
Votes: 199
Other Formats: lrf docx lrf mobi

Thomas Mann's reaction to the rise of Nazism and destruction of Germany, told through the career of a fictional composer (who ultimately becomes insane) with reference to the medieval Faust-legend. Enormously informative chapters on music history and theory (Mann is brilliant, here and elsewhere, at putting musical works into words. And describing works which don't exist!). Deep probing into dark and tortured places in the German soul by way of medieval theology. (The narrator, a classical humanist, represents the bright, serene places). Complex symbolic structure developed with mature mastery: sex and evil, disease and creativity, love and death. Possibly Mann drives the central theme—selling one's soul to the Devil in return for worldly success—a bit too hard. It's not quite clear whether the "bargain" is only imaginary--psychic–symbolic or actual. I'm afraid I got lost in many of the student "bull-sessiions" and later cultural discussions which, I suppose, are intended to depict social and political developments and attitudes of the times. Not Thomas Mann's greatest novel, but still a great and important work. Incidentally it reads much more cleanly in German than in the Herter-Norton translation I remember from years ago.
I wrote my senior thesis on this great German work and I was fortunate enough to find it on Amazon at a decent price. The item arrived on time and in great condition. I was very pleased with my order.
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 has 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 a beautiful 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, and more nuanced. Something indigenous, that is beautiful and magical, has a dangerous internal logic...I 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 logic...

The 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 a more efficient method that we could do in say 20 minutes. Nope. Mann's way with words gradually lifts off the ground. A more concise 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.